No more business as usual!
In all my years as a peace activist never before have I sobbed aloud at a rally. Tears in my eyes, yes. Maybe even tears rolling down my cheeks, but never uncontrollable sobs coming unbidden from my mouth.
I don't cry easily so when it happens it catches me by surprise. But what happened in the middle of Saturday's rally at Camp Casey Detroit honoring the folks on Cindy Sheehan's Bring The Troops Home Now bus tour, hit so deep I didn't have a chance to protect myself. All I could do was react. And I wasn't the only one.
This rally had already been more emotional than most. We'd heard from Lila Lipscomb, the Mom from Flint, MI whom Michael Moore had featured in "Farenheidt 9-11." She'd brought up to the stage her dead son's little girl. That was a moment. And then Al Zappala, the only tour member representing Gold Star Families for Peace, told us about his 30 year-old son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who'd been killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. That was another moment. But these moments were to be expected. We'd known ahead of time that we'd be hearing from folks who had lost loved ones in the fighting in Iraq. It was what happened next that pushed me, and many of us, over the edge.
After Al had finished speaking, the Rev. Ed Rowe, MC for the rally, asked if there were any other families of troops fighting in Iraq who would like to come forward. Two women walked up and stood directly under Ed at the elevated ledge of Hazen S. Pingree's statue which we were using as a stage; one was blond and the other had long dark hair and looked to be Latina. Cradled in her left arm was a framed color photograph of a smiling young man in military dress uniform. Three children, ages 6-11 or so, came up holding signs that said "Bring the Troops Home Now!", and stood beside her.
The blond woman told of her son who had fought in Iraq, and, thank God, had gotten out alive. Then the mic was handed to the woman carrying the photograph. As soon as she started talking, she dissolved into tears and kept saying, "My life is over. My son is dead." She was crying so hard it was difficult to understand her. I never did hear her name or her son's name, when he had been killed or where in Iraq it had happened. That didn't matter. All that mattered was that we were in the presence of such a raw grief that, no matter how committed to peace we'd been before, now we knew why. We were finally seeing and feeling the true cost of war. A mother's pain. Her grief. Her inconsolable loss.
As soon as Lila Lipscomb saw what was happening, she rushed forward to stand beside this woman, to put her arm around her, to be a presence of support, because Lila and her husband know more than anyone except Al Zappala, how it feels to lose your child to war. Ed Rowe stepped down off the stage, stood on the other side of this woman and said, "We need hugs here." Now that may sound too touchy-feely for some, but he was right. Hugs were all that could speak to such depths of pain. Words were useless.
For the next twenty minutes, person after person came forward to hold this sobbing woman, to let her know she was not alone. Tammara Rosenleaf from the bus tour, a woman whose husband is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in November, held her sister for endless moments. Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, the next speaker, stood beside these hugging, sobbing women and said over and over, "No more business as usual! No more business as usual! No more business as usual!" She finished with the cry, "Wake up, America!"
As I write this I am weeping again. My God! When will we wake up? When will the American people say, "Enough already!" I hope it won't take hundreds and thousands more sobbing, grief-stricken mothers before we see what this war on Iraq is costing us. For it's not just OUR loved ones who are dying, it's untold thousands and thousands and thousands of our sisters and brothers in Iraq. Who is giving them wordless hugs of love and support? Who is acknowledging THEIR pain and grief? Who will stop this war and BRING OUR TROOPS HOME NOW!
--posted by Patricia