Dying for Love

During Barack Obama’s presidency, we’ve witnessed a convergence of paths, a union of pathologies. Obama is Bush. Bush is Obama. One could have been fashioned from the other’s rib. Mission position accomplished. Mission expanded.

Obama is committing war atrocities not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but, also, in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. Bush and Obama criminally are entwined and we’re entrenched?in terrorism perpetrated against a population not responsible for an event that hurled us in to this post-9/11 neocon wet dream during which at least a million civilians, including children, have perished.

We, now, have lost 6077 U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. The “official” count of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq is 33,051, but the estimated total is over 100,000. Forty-four have been killed since the Nobel Peace Prize recipient announced THE END of combat in Iraq, naming the “non-combat” phase Operation New Dawn. Seven have been killed in June.

Recently, I read, again, these words from a military family: “He died doing what he loved.” I wonder what’s to love about the carnage of U.S. imperial baptism.

“He died doing what he loved.”

Imagine reading or hearing that 6077 times.

Of course, we won’t, since many mothers, fathers, and spouses of our dead don’t believe this. They know. They understand. They’ve witnessed the frustration and agony of multiple deployments, the posttraumatic stress disorder, the brutal truth of war.

Still, I want you to think about these words: “He died doing what he loved,” and, in fact, imagine hearing them said in reference to, maybe, a quarter of those who’ve been killed.

“He died doing what he loved.”

Or these: “He received a brain injury doing what he loved.”

“He lost an arm doing what he loved.”

“She’s a double amputee, but she was doing what she loved.”

“She can’t hug her children, but she was doing what she loved.”

“He’s unresponsive. But he was wounded doing what he loved.

We clean her tubes to prevent infection. But she was injured doing what she loved.”

“No, Daddy wasn’t here when you were born, but he died doing what he loved.”

Think about “doing what he/she loved” in the context of war. And, then, expand the thought to another murder, of the self, with the growing number of military suicides. Obviously, these men and women didn’t die doing what they loved, unless they loved blowing their brains across the room to put an end to the images that prevented any return to normalcy. For them, there was no acceptance of war’s requirements. Instead, their souls were seared so indelibly they could not find peace.

“He died doing what he loved” will continue to be said by some of the families of those killed in combat, because language fails during immeasurable pain.

“He died doing what he loved” is a six-word lifeline, a gasp for breath, and a grasp to reach some kind of comfort through denial, an unthinking of the unthinkable, and/or vocabulary’s inadequacy. But these six words veneer war’s dehumanizing brutality and, then, are exploited by Deciders.

We don’t challenge the grieving when they say these words.

We should risk being labeled insensitive.

If only 6,077 family members of the dead would surround the White House and wail the pain of loss.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, MD, where it’s as good a place as any to obsess. Reach her at missybeat@gmail.com.

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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

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