“Three soldiers died today.” And I wonder about my neighbor whose son is there. I remember how many times my son was called by recruiters before he graduated high school in 2002, and how in sheer frustration one day, before Cindy Sheehan camped out in Texas, I told them to stop calling him. “He’s going to college,” I nearly yelled. And I remember calling a friend back home when her son returned wounded from an IED attack, and hearing her sheer pleasure at having him home again, just feeding him breakfast. His arm had been shattered, but his mind was still sound and she was thankful for that. They are young, these dead soldiers. Men and women dying incrementally, with their helmets stuck strangely on their rifles inside their boots. The wounded we never hear about, unless some congressman or reporter talks of visiting them. It is a sick, strange slaughter of our young people. Still, plots to blow up schools around the Columbine anniversary are averted and dogwood parades go on despite a drizzle. And so we wait and run to the cleaners and soccer practice, call the doctor’s office and stand in line at the movies and try not to think about soldiers dying all the time, because to think about it all the time might mean we should do something about it.
“Three GIs Killed by Roadside Bomb.” In fact, we hear from Osama yet again, wagging his finger and calling for jihadists everywhere to unite because we are killing Muslims. He would like us not to focus on Shiite-Sunni tensions. The latest numbers are somewhere between 34,000 and 38,000 Iraqi people dead; caught in a cultural cross-fire since our mission to spread democracy started. But we don’t do body counts, right? Many more civilians were found dead today up close and personal. They had been tortured, their hands tied, shot in the head, left in a car. They are the subsection of the body-count statistic that is quaintly called “sectarian violence.”
Wait now, it’s up to eight; “Eight soldiers die today.” We are inching closer to the number of American civilians lost on 9/11. Sometimes we forget that Osama and Saddam despised each other and that one event has nothing to do with the other. We forget that intelligence was not just ignored, but possibly manipulated. Journalists that endeavor to step beyond their embedded “green” zones risk their lives, as Daniel Pearl did. And I remember my mother telling me, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.” And I think of all the training videos these young extremists get to see—the beheading of the so-called “infidel”—to incite them toward hatred. Our news is carefully screened and scripted. We see no body bags, no coffins, we mustn’t see the beheadings. We are too delicate for such visuals of war. It is not in our best interest to train our children to hate and kill, unless we start drafting them again. We have been told instead to shop, not to ration butter, or oil. The advice Brig. General Mark Kimmet gave Iraqi citizens who complained about seeing TV images of innocent people being killed by coalition troops was, “Change the channel.”
And so we do, we change the channel to hear of oil executives getting richer, the nuclear aspirations of Iran, and a mayoral run-off in New Orleans and we go to church, or we avoid church, and we avoid Meet the Press. Instead we pray for peace. And I pray that every single one of our citizens, young and old, gets out to vote in every single election. Maybe the next time we get to choose a president, when “we the people” get to choose a president, we will choose wisely.
Christine Lynn has been a journalist for over 20 years in Massachusetts and New Jersey. A UVA Community Scholar last year, she is currently writing a book.
And so we wait and run to the cleaners and soccer practice, call the doctor’s office and stand in line at the movies and try not to think about soldiers dying all the time, because to think about it all the time might mean we should do something about it.