When I was a little girl and again as a young woman dreaming about having children I never, ever, even for a heartbeat imagined that I would ever be the mother of someone that had killed somebody…but I am. There in Iraq in the dusty, sun baked rubble that was once the City of Mosques, Ar Ramadi, my son repeatedly engaged an enemy, sighted down the barrel of his weapon, opened fire and ended lives.
John, now a corporal in the Marine Corp, returned from his second tour in Iraq in March. The transition from patrolling Route Michigan, one of the most dangerous highways in the world to visiting with his mother in Oregon was more difficult than I would have thought. Once, while chatting about his future, his plans, his experiences the lid of a large dumpster at a nearby building slammed shut. John catapulted to his feet. His instincts, his brain, ready, alert, searching, assessing, calculating.
His body was coiled and tense. The flesh on his face flattened against his skull and a vein appeared on his forehead, pulsing. His hands seemed to reach for a machine gun that was, thankfully, not slung over his shoulder. The moment lasted only nano-seconds before he realized he wasn’t in Iraq. John was in full survival mode; kill or be killed. Iin less than a second his face had registered fear, anger, hatred, relief and finally self deprecation. My heart ached.
Knowing I was powerless to erase the experiences and memories that led to my son’s reaction I entered the anti-war arena. Many other things have contributed to my emergence as an opponent of this war. My son’s near brushes with death. My belief that my son and his fellow warriors are being used as targets and security guards to allow Haliburton and like corporations and individuals to plunder the assets of Iraq. The anger I feel when I see the burden this war has permanently imprinted upon my son. Knowing that the war had no basis in fact, that my son and his fellow Marines and soldiers are being used have all contributed to why I went to Washington, DC this weekend.
All of those reasons, while valid merely add salt to the wound. Nothing has the motivational power that knowing my own issue has taken a life…taken lives does. Not that I blame my son. How could I? John was thrust into the horrible circumstance of war, of killing or being killed. Of killing or believing that your inaction allowed the death of your best buddy. No, I blame myself because I did nothing to try and prevent this war beyond voicing my skepticism to the voiceless, deaf walls of my home. And, yes, I blame this administration.
This weekend I marched with as many as 500,000 or as little as 150,000 people depending upon whether you believe C-SPAN or CNN. As I marched I met many other Oregonians along the way. Weaving through the throng I met other Marine moms, some with their sons deploying for their first tour and I wished I had had the forethought to do something, anything, before my son went to war.
When my son deployed for his first tour, my thirst for information finally led me into the world of independent journalism and blogging and I am no longer constrained by the bland dispatches of AP wirefeeds and the handfed releases from the WhiteHouse and the Pentagon that are presented as news by the mainstream media. Information is power and I no longer feel as powerless to effect change as I once did and it is with this mind set that I marched on Washington, Saturday.
Banners proclaiming ‘Bush Lied, Who Died’, ‘Sunday School Teachers Against The War’, ‘$13,000/sec”,”Make Levees, Not War”, “Vermont For Peace” and even “Republicans Against The War” marked the attendants. Also present were all the usual suspects, Cindy Sheehan and Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out amongst many others.
Eleven of us traveled from Oregon, 9 from Coos County and a couple from Portland. Our group includes doctors, contractors, writers, musicians, educators and business owners. We refer to ourselves affectionately as the Bandonistas, as most hail from Bandon, Oregon. Only I was a first time marcher and yet even the experienced members of our group were amazed by the magnitude of the crowd.
The march began at the Ellipse on Constitution Avenue, went up 15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue to pass in front of the White House. District of Columbia revised statutes prohibit stopping in front of the White House. Local police had erected metal barriers in front of the White House. Black hooded snipers were visible on the roof. As the march progressed past the White House the different groups would stop long enough to direct their particular message in the direction of the oval office, even though, President Bush had exited Washington just prior to the march.
The march then wound around Lafayette Park turned down to Pennsylvania Avenue to head east past the Depart of Justice and return along Constitution Avenue and back to the Ellipse. We were approximately 200 yards from the start of the march and people were stretched across every lane of the streets, yet when we had completed the loop we could look back up 15th Street and see the masses still pouring along H Street more than 2 miles behind the head of the march.
A small group of counter protestors were positioned at the FBI building waving banners of their own. ‘Freedom isn’t free’, ‘God blesses us and curses our enemies’ and ‘ANSWER is dumb, Jane Fonda is dumb’. Some shouted that we were denigrating the efforts of the troops. That view continues to amaze me. Two themes were universally agreed upon by the hundreds of thousands of marchers on Saturday. First was that the war is illegal. The second and most powerful is that the troops are heroes. The troops are to be honored, protected, supported and brought home as soon as possible. A sentiment I heartily share.