FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

With These Arms …

by MISSY BEATTIE

I hated not having arms. I was all right with not having legs. Not having arms takes so much away from you. Even your personality. You talk with your hands. You do everything with your hands, basically. And when you don’t have that you’re kind of lost for a while.

~~Sgt. Brendan Marrocco

Twenty-six-year-old Brendan Marrocco is a veteran who left all four limbs in Iraq. On December 18, 2012, in a 13-hour operation, he received two new arms, not prosthetic arms, but two human arms, from a deceased donor.

I lay in bed unable to fall asleep, imaging Marrocco, not just as he is now, what he is now, but also when he returned stateside, his body, the way he felt, wondering about the way his parents felt. The way I would feel if he were my child. “Not having arms takes so much away from you. Even your personality.” These sentences interlaced my thoughts.

Did his mother and father say, “He lost four limbs doing what he loved?”

Or did they scream, as I would, “He lost four limbs supporting what the military security complex loves? Really, would I say this? How could I know?

I had been reading articles about unmanned aerial vehicles earlier, one detailing the formal inquiry into US droning. Usually, I scroll through the comment sections, as if I’m taking a pulse, conducting a survey. Here’s one opinion, the judgment most likely of an American who supports his/her country’s exceptionalism: “I would rather inadvertently kill children via drone strikes than risk one American soldier’s life trying to kill terrorists in the UN-approved way.”

So, I tossed. Turned. Plumped my pillows. And personalized, wondering about my sons. What if one wanted to join the military? Would I hope he’d work from a cubicle, thousands of miles from the physical danger of roadside bombs, like the improvised explosive device (IED) that ripped off the limbs of US Army Sgt. Brendan Marrocco? Want my son to control a joystick—instead of deploying overseas?

The selfish Me said yes. The better me reconsidered. Maiming. Marrocco. Safety. Drones. My children. Your children. All children.

I imagined my child as drone operator. Far from injury.

Yet close to inflicting it.

What if he called a strike that vaporized a child?

What if he committed this murder repeatedly?

At least he wouldn’t be maimed or killed by an IED.

But what would he BE? What would he become?  “… kind of lost for a while”? Forever? Psychically distorted?

At peace rallies, I’ve heard parents speak about their sons who’ve returned from war altered forever by what they’ve done, what they’ve seen.

Staring into the eyes of the “enemy” before slaughtering him.

Blowing up cars, families, children. Witnessing the death of children.

Participating in the crime of war. Watching their buddies explode in rage or apart.

Brendan Marrocco lost more than four limbs to an IED. He also lost his personality. His words imply that new hands, the gift of gesture, restore that loss.

Now, right now, I look at my hands. I feel the keyboard. I reach out and then back to place a hand on my chest, my heart. But I also see the hand that curls around the remote to vaporize a wedding party.

I consider the Socratic dialogues, specifically, whether it is better to suffer and injustice or commit an injustice.

I think too about families in the countries we terrorize, in the countries we drone—human beings who love their children just as much as I love mine. As much as you love yours.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail