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War Zones


Imagine you’re there, eager, exuberant. You look at the sky and gasp at its beauty. It’s a perfect day for a life-affirming event.

Suddenly you hear. You hear, but what you hear really doesn’t register as frightening. After all, this is a celebration. And then you see. You see a curling cloud of smoke. You watch, noticing the way it dances, changing shape. And then, there’s another sound, followed by screams. Your gaze shifts. You look up, staring into the face of someone whose eyes speak horror. You turn, to see. A leg, missing its foot. A body, without legs. Your spouse’s. Your child’s.

I’ve just described a wedding party in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, any place exploded by war.

On Monday, the tragedy happened to occur in Massachusetts where the FBI searches for answers. As I write, there’s been an announcement—a suspect seen in a video.

Early in April, the heartbreak you heard little or nothing about took place in Afghanistan, when a NATO airstrike killed 20. Among the dead were 11 children.

There is no hunt for the murderers of civilians killed by “pressure cookers” manufactured by huge weapons corporations. Occasionally, we hear or read the understatement “collateral damage” as an expression of regret for what’s done in our names, but the decision yielding that euphemism is deemed justifiable by some. American exceptionalism, you know.

A few minutes ago, I viewed photos of two of Boston’s dead. One revealed a beautiful young woman. The other was an adorable little boy.

Barack Obama made this statement:

Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why, whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization—foreign or domestic—or was the act of a malevolent individual.

Of course this is an act of terror. It terrorized. That was the intent. Whether the perpetrator is homegrown or foreign grown, acting with an accomplice, or among a membership dead set on roosting the chickens, people are afraid—despite Obama’s ridiculous statement: “The American people refuse to be terrorized.”

The US government demands our fear, exploits our emotions—to commit its own acts of terror.

My first thought as I read the news was a question:  What country will bear the brunt of revenge if the attack is not domestic? This is the reality that makes me weep with despair—that people, within the borders of the red, white, and blue, are so afraid that they enthusiastically demonize and dehumanize an entire group of people.

Meanwhile, experts are debating how to ease the fears of America’s children. Singing a moving rendition of the National Anthem at a ballgame is not the solution. Rather, we should be demanding an end to injustice, an end to war. Because Boston is daily for those who live in areas of “overseas contingency operation”. Yes, that’s another euphemism, conceived by the Pentagon, for AfPakIraq conflict.

Obama said: “If you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that’s it—selflessly, compassionately, unafraid.”

Ask the people whose countries we invade if America is selfless, compassionate.

Violence is a circle that returns vengeance. Our culture of hatred, of objectifying others, of mighty righteousness has blown back with calamitous potency.

Mothers and fathers in the Newtowns and Bostons and malls and on city streets never know, when they kiss their loved ones goodbye and send them off to wherever, if they’ll be called to identify a body at some morgue or to the school or hospital to learn the severity of the injuries. “Not my child. Please, not my child.” Saying this over and over with little or no consideration that parents, human beings, in the countries we ravage with war, cry for their own, love their children just as much as we love ours.

Missy Beattie can be reached at










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:

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