A New Pledge of Allegiance

Okay, I know I’m using artistic-op-ed license, but Mother Earth, maybe, rumbled a 5.8 demand for justice on Tuesday.

In a North Carolina hotel room, I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard sister Laura, on the phone with her partner Erma, say, “The balcony door is shaking here.”  Erma had told her that their building in Baltimore was moving.  Then, son John called from NYC to tell me his building moved.  Laura powered the telly to MSNBC where we learned that the earth quaked along the East Coast from Florida to Massachusetts.

Opening my laptop, I hit Google.  I wanted to check on nuclear power plants and, sure enough, North Anna Nuclear Power Station is located in Mineral, Virginia, the quake’s epicenter.  While a 5.8 shift isn’t huge, it’s enough to put the freak on anyone who believes that nuclear power plants should be closed yesterday.

I don’t interpret planetary activity as biblical wrath.

But I examine our gluttony, deepwater drilling, fracking, Wall Street crime, invading and occupying countries to claim oil and mineral wealth, using weapons that not only change the DNA of the people who live in these countries but, also, the DNA of troops who hear “honor” and “sacrifice” and, well, you see where I’m going.  And where I am.

My thoughts are spider veins, spreading like seismic waves, random threads that need to be tied.

Last week, I received an email from Michael, a reader who said that my article, “The Toll of Our Revenge”, expresses the sickness he has been feeling for years.  He told me that he and his wife Chris helped start the Minnesota chapter of Military Families Speak Out.  I cried when I read why.  And I received permission to write about their anguish.  Their son went to Iraq in 2004 and came home physically fine but troubled:

When he was still 19, he called me and said, ‘Dad, today I sat and held Carballo until he died and I am still wearing the uniform that is stained with his blood. Before he died he told me to go home & tell his daughter and wife he loved them.’

Then, their son said, “There are no damn WMD; he died for nothing.”

A month later he called again, this time to say, “Today, I held Marshall, but he was already dead. How many more will die for nonexistent WMD?”

I think of the deception of war, man’s inhumanity to man, and the “sickness” Michael feels.  I feel it too.

Recently, I was sifting through papers, having made a decision to unclutter my life.   I ran my fingers and, then, my flattened palms across the handwriting of loved ones who have died, as if I could absorb their molecules.

I gave away articles of clothing, thinking that a particular coat or shirt doesn’t represent someone’s being or essence.  An object is nothing.  Love and life remain in the heart.

And in this process of simplifying, I found the Selective Service Number for one of my sons.  Included was:  “YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL”, followed by an enticement that he could “find adventure and challenge, and serve your country and state.”  In the background:  red, white, and blue stars and stripes and an eagle.

Emotional already, I wanted to scream.

Operation Iraqi Freedom is now Operation New Dawn.  This “Dawn” may be extended.  Operation Enduring Freedom may endure operation death past 2014.  Soldiers are dying and killing, and record numbers are committing suicide.

We have pledged our allegiance. To this country. To the flag.  For what it stands.  I can’t stand it anymore. I pledge mine to the planet and its safekeeping.  This includes valuing all human life, not just American.

I want to weave the loose threads into something good—a huge tourniquet that ends the bleeding caused by US Empire.  If we don’t act to stop the carnage of “American exceptionalism”, Mother Earth, karma, or something may be ready to rumble much more than cracks and falling bricks next time.  Even worse than Fukushima.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  Write to her at 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