Three dates stand out in my mind: March 12 & March 20 of 2003 & April 26 of 2004.
March 12th, 2003 was the birth date of our first grandchild. New life! A new generation. How pregnant the world seemed leading up to Justin's birth: the earth seemed pregnant with spring soon to burst forth, the church seemed pregnant with the anticipation of Easter morning and the wonder-filled shock and awe of the risen Christ. In contrast, the world seemed pregnant with waiting for the bombs to start dropping in Iraq. I am told that pregnant women in Iraq were choosing to have Caesarian deliveries rather than risk trying to get to and from the hospital during the impending bombing.
March 20th, 2003 was the day our embedded newscasters bombarded us with images of the most massive bombing our world has ever known: Shock and Awe, the headlines screamed at us. Unjust and unjustifiable death and destruction, it seemed to me. Shock and Awe belongs to God, to the miracle of birth, to the Easter dawn of new hope for Christ / love / spirit / caring in the world among all of the people of the world: this is the Shock and Awe that sustains us in hope to build a more just world, to create coalitions of concerned peoples and nations, to imagine a more equitable sharing of resources for all of the children being born around the globe on March 12th, on March 20th, on any day.
March 20th, 2003 was the day we rejoiced that our grandson was safe at home. We also knew that in Iraq, there were grandparents who would be mourning the death of their infant grandchildren, whether from being directly hit by the bombs, from drinking unpotable water, or from lack of routine medical attention. War kills people: battlefield casualties only tell one part of the story. We knew this during the last decade in Iraq under sanctions which truly were another form of undeclared war, when over one million people died as a direct result of those sanctions, half of those casualties being children under five. What of their grandparents?
March 20th, 2003 was the day everything in me was screaming "NO!" as our missiles bought with our tax dollars rained down on Baghdad. 107 of us sat down in front of this Federal building, and together shouted "NO!" to our Federal government. Many others across the country did the same. We shouted NO! to a war we did not want being waged by a President we did not elect with money we did not have to kill people and a government that the United Nations, the weapons inspectors, and knowledgeable people around the world publicly and loudly agreed was not an imminent threat to us.
We were told that this bombing of Iraq was a necessary response to 9/11. The 9/11 Commission Report verifies that Iraq had nothing to do with that tragedy.
We were told that making war upon the people of Iraq would make us safer from the terrorists. It hasn't. War is the womb that gives birth to the next generations of terrorists.
We were told this would stop Al Qaeda: a falsehood thoroughly seeded in our perhaps not-so-free press.
We were told this was necessary because Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction; none have ever been found, though many untruths have been told in the process of incubating this fear.
March 28th, 2003 was my 58th birthday. Donít lie to me on my birthday!
April 26th, 2004 is the third date that stands out in my mind. This day was four days short of one full year from George Bush's May 1, 2003 announcement of Mission Accomplished from the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln: "Major combat operations have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the US and our allies have prevailed." One year later, on April 26th, 2004, as the ground war continued to intensify, my friend's son Sherwood[*] became the 720th US military person killed in Iraq. I cried. Again, I shouted "NO!". Stop it! No more! What is the purpose? The only purpose I could ever see in this war was occupation. I was at a meeting in West Philadelphia the day I heard the horrible news of Sherwood's death. I wandered around, saw the spring sunshine glancing off the bright tile sign for Tabernacle Church where we had gathered together during that pregnant winter of 2003 to consider how to respond to the bombing threat, to talk about possibly blocking the Federal building. Why didn't we do more? Why didn't we block the planes that carried our troops, our bombs, our children? Why? Why? Why?
I recalled a Sunday over thirty years ago when I was the nursery Mom at church. It was the first Sunday that Sherwood's Mom brought her little boys to church. She was nervous about leaving them in the nursery. I told her, "They will be safe here. We will take good care of them. It's all right." Well, thirty-some years later, as she is burying her stone-cold child in the flag-covered government-issue coffin, as she listens to the echo of Taps that the bugler plays, I have to say that he was not safe here on this warring earth, that this madness of Shock and Awe makes us all less safe, that we are not taking good enough care of our world. It is not all right.
My friends from the First United Methodist Church of Germantown collected a love offering to help pay my fine today. I have this check from our church. Other friends from Northeast Philly for Peace and Justice have offered to contribute. If you can use this fine money to give clean drinking water to children in Iraq, I will pay it. If you can use this fine money to lessen our grandchildren's tax burden for paying for this war, I will pay it. If you can use this fine money to eliminate some of our own country's vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, then I will pay it. But, if you want to collect this love offering to cover my fine and then to continue on with business as usual, with war as usual, with more of our government's unthinkable Shock and Awe, I will not pay it. I would rather go to jail.
Marion Brown can be contacted at 215-673-0566 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She is an active member of:
[*] Last April, Sherwood Baker, whose mother, Celeste Zappala, was in court, was the first PA national guardsmen killed in Iraq.