Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A draft of my letter to Mrs. Bush

This is what I've written so far... in response to my own earlier post.

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to you as another woman, as a mother, and as one who loves reading and literature and all that it can do to enrich a person’s life… all things that you and I share. However, I am also writing to you as a grandmother, an experience that we do not share, at least not yet. It is a whole new ballgame once you become a grandparent. Your entire perspective on the world shifts, and your feelings as you watch an infant you did not bear, but to whom you feel so deeply connected, grow into a small child, and then start to become a young woman or a young man, are different both in kind and degree from your feelings as a parent.

My own grandson has just celebrated his 11th birthday. He is considered, without a doubt, by everyone who knows him to be smart and sensitive and funny and witty. And he’s compassionate. He surprised me last year when he and I were visiting with my family for a few days and we had the TV turned on to watch something while he settled down on the sofa before going to sleep. He was watching a program on cosmetic surgery that I thought might be too graphic for him, and when I commented on that, he told me, not that he was fascinated by the surgeries, but that that he just felt really sorry for the children who had to go through such things. They were having corrective surgery for cleft palates and other more serious deformities.

I can hardly describe to you my reaction when I think about my grandson, or another child like him, being called to serve in the military. How can it possibly serve the best interests of our nation to put our children (mostly males) through the dehumanizing process required by the military? How can we possibly benefit, especially now, by the return of so many soldiers who have physical injuries that in past wars would not have meant survival? How can we possibly benefit from the return of even more soldiers who have suffered psychological traumas that make them unable to fit themselves once more into our society, or even worse, cause them to commit suicide? How can the deaths and maiming of another ten thousand or more innocent Iraqi civilians, especially the children, not be a price to great for us to bear? How can any of these things possibly be making our nation more secure or more strong? Or, and this is extremely painful… more respected throughout the world?

My own feelings are even more complicated because I come from a family in which nearly all of the males have served in the military, including my father, who would have been appalled by this debacle of a war. As a former military brat, the normality of my own childhood was sacrificed, paradoxically, so that other children could have normal ones. What good there was in that, was supposed to be in knowing that it was for a greater good. But, now, I no longer recognize the country that my father and brothers and uncles felt so proud to serve, and that was supposed to be the justification for my having to attend so many different schools. The civil liberties we had been able to take for granted for so long are now subjected to utilitarian cost/benefit analyses, and anyone who might disagree with a conclusion that was reached in secret, without the counsel of wiser, more experienced public servants, and without the proper oversight of congress, are called traitors. I can tell you that there are an awful lot of people just like me, middle-aged, public-minded, and highly concerned, who resent, and in some cases, almost feel rage, at being so labeled by those who have little risk of their own to fear, i.e., by those whose family members-- their children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews-- lead (or will lead) lives with enough privilege to exempt them from the danger of having to fight in or support a war that from its conception was considered both unnecessary and ill-advised.

Although his father has been in the Air Force since just before he was born, at this point, my grandson has made it clear that he has no interest in future service for himself because he doesn’t “want to get killed.” However, we all know that events happen that can change circumstances, and recruiters can resort to once unimaginable tactics in order to meet their quotas. Nor am I naïve enough, or young enough, to rule out completely the reinstatement of the Draft. It could happen, under the right—or perhaps I should say, the wrong—circumstance: e.g., becoming unnecessarily embroiled in another war in the Middle East, when we already have one that is going very badly.

Mrs. Bush, your own daughters are still very young, and perhaps do not intend to marry and have children of their own any time soon. Once they do, though, you, too, may find yourself vulnerable to a whole new set of feelings and sensations, similar to ones you already have, but more deeply personal. And the Iraq War, or any other wars, might also become more personal to you, if you could imagine that any one of your grandchildren could end up as a casualty. After all, there have been the exceptions in this war, and children with other options have chosen to enlist, out of pride in their country, and a wish to share in the obligation. Pat Tillman's family now suffers because he made such a choice, only to have his life wasted in Afghanistan and his legacy distorted for political purposes. Conceivably, more families of privilege may also suffer similar losses before this war is over. And... even more innocent women and children in Iraq and elsewhere will die or suffer grievous wounds because we have inserted our military where it did not belong, and have kept it there long past the point where it might have done something worthwhile.

I implore you, Mrs. Bush, not just for myself and my family, or even my grandson, but for all of the rest of us, the women whose families do not have the privileges yours has, nor, as you do, the ear of the president, to speak out and join us in saying that we have all had much more than enough. You have a unique opportunity, you and your daughters, and Secretary Rice, and Mrs. Hughes, and Ms. Miers, to use your influence with the president to minimize any further damage to our country and its reputation in the world. It is clear to all of us by now that Mr. Bush does not care to hear other men's opinions, but occasionally will allow himself to be influenced for the better by the women in his life. In that he is not unlike many other men. However, your husband wields, compared with most other men, a nuclear-powered force that once unleashed cannot be called back.


Karen M.


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