Sunday, February 17, 2008

My cousin died in Iraq

More Bush war crimes

Recently a cousin of mine and his comrades went out on their last patrol in Iraq. It wasn't planned as their last patrol. It just turned out that way. They ran into one of those infamous “improvised explosive devices” and died. Another California kid killed in Bush's misbegotten Middle East adventure. Another soldier sacrificed to an insane bully-boy foreign policy. Another victim of criminal negligence by administration officials who only pretended to expedite the acquisition of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. Some people in Washington deserve to burn in hell.

I traveled to Sacramento to snap some photos at the State Capitol, where the flags have once again been lowered to half-staff. I sent them to my family so they could see my cousin's memory being honored. I called my mother to ask about my cousin's family and to express my sympathies.

And, of course, I yelled at her.

It probably doesn't help to say that she started it. I do have difficulties at times with my parents. Naturally, I'm aware of this, so I carefully avoid certain topics; but, unfortunately, they are less inclined to return the favor. I asked Mom how my cousin's parents were doing. She told me they were working with a grief counselor and were doing about as well as one could hope when dealing with the loss of one's only son. Then she launched off:

“It's just terrible, terrible, how these war protesters attack the troops and undermine the war effort. It shouldn't be allowed!”

Mom had ventured onto dangerous ground. I cut her some slack and answered her very mildly:

“Mom, protesting the war is not the same as attacking the troops. Lots of people are against the war, but they're not against our soldiers. I'm against the war, but I support the troops and I think we should show it by bringing them home instead of leaving them over there to get killed.”

She was having none of it:

“But they're protecting the country! We have to let them finish their war against terror!”

I fell for the bait, not that Mom was being deliberately provocative. She was just spouting concentrated Fox News misinformation. But I've long since refused to listen in silence as if I agree:

“Mom, Iraq never attacked us. We attacked them. This is what happens when you have scoundrels and criminals in the White House.”

“Well, I happen to admire the president very much.”

“That's too bad, Mom. Bush is probably the worst president in American history. His war is a disaster, he's run up a huge national debt for nothing, and the country is suffering for it.”

“The economy's not his fault! When Clinton was in there, all he did was chase women!”

“And we were much better off, too. And people supported Clinton much more than they do Bush. You've been getting your nonsense from talk radio and Fox News.”

“At least they're not full of lies like CNN! I have no use for those Democrats in Washington. They're useless! They're less popular than Bush! And Pelosi should have stayed in San Francisco! There are lots of questions about the illegals that she and her husband employ!”

Tons of Fox manure and other right-wing talking points. Including a specific attack on the evils of CNN. Mom has absorbed them all. Complete with exclamation points.

“You accidentally said something correct, Mom. Congress is less popular than Bush. That's because people like you are upset that the congressional majorities oppose the president. But people like me are upset that they do it so ineffectively. If Congress wanted to be more popular, it would refuse to enact Bush's policies and refuse to fund the war.”

“And that's how we lost the Vietnam war! It was war protesters here at home that caused us to lose the war in Vietnam just when we were about to win! I heard a former general say that on KMJ.”

KMJ is the Central Valley's leading supplier of cant, spin, and lies from Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. It's your one-stop shop for all of your delusional neocon needs.

“Gee, Mom, did you even live through the twentieth century? When were we ever on the verge of ‘winning’ in Vietnam?” My arguments with my parents are invariably ineffective. Perhaps it's because they can't hear the wry quote marks in my sentences.

We weren't done with Iraq, of course:

“If we let the protesters win again, we'll lose our mission to protect the people of Iraq.”

“Are you kidding me, Mom? They're dying by the tens of thousands. A large majority of Iraqis want us to leave. I say give them what they want and bring our troops home.”

“No, that's not true. A large majority want us there!”

“Says who? Sorry, Mom. That's a mathematical impossibility. If a large majority—it's about two-thirds!—wants us to get the hell out of there, that doesn't leave enough left over to also have a majority—small or large!—begging us to stay. We've been there too long and we've lost too many people, and that includes our family now.”

Leave it to me to cite mathematical impossibilities. And I was starting to use exclamation points myself. I finally came to my senses:

“But, Mom, I'm tired of wasting my time yelling at you and you're wasting your time yelling at me. I really just called to find out how the parents are doing.”

Mom's wrath subsided in an instant. We were back on common ground. She told me about the funeral arrangements and the rosary service that would precede it. I did not express my opinion that the family should convene under a flag of truce. I was pretty sure my parents would denounce it as a flag of surrender. I promised myself to curb my tongue and ignore the inevitable provocations that occur whenever my family gathers. Prayer services are neutral events, not political debates.

But if I believed in hell, I'd pray that George Bush gets sent there.


Courtney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ah, The Legacy of baby George, Shame in every Color poured blood red onto the ground.
Once we were the Good Guys, Honest Brave and true. WE never stooped to torture, WE knew the golden rule. But now we play with Torture, for amusement and for spite. Like the Spanish Inquisition no one knows you died or why. And all the mighty leaders Live in Splendid fantasies behind their tv barricades. If no cares about your rights, how long before the Night Watch comes for you? My only question about the missing Torture tapes is this, How many times did Bush and Chaney watch them, and did they eat popcorn while doing so?

The Ridger, FCD said...

I'm sorry for your loss, and for your argument with your mother. I'm fortunate in that even the lone conservative in my family (my brother) despises this administration and what they've done and stand for.

I hope the service for your cousin goes well.

eProf2 said...

I'm sorry about your loss, I wish your cousin had made it back ok. Let's hope and work hard to bring all of the troops home soon.

libhom said...

Posts like this do help. They give people a chance to read about the human costs of the war and what war opponents really think, not what is put in their mouths by corporate propagandists.

Zeno said...

Thanks for the kind remarks, folks. I appreciate the sentiments and good thoughts.

Other family members are more affected than I am because I didn't know my cousin well. He was a lot younger than me and lived a couple of hundred miles away. But he was close to people I'm close to and grief has its transitive aspects. At least my presence in northern California made it possible for me to provide my family with photos of the State Capitol flags, since I can get to Sacramento more conveniently than they can. It's good to be able to do a little something, even if it's not all that much.

The rest is anger, frustration, and a search for distractions.

Amanda Martin said...

My empathy for you and your loved ones -- even if you may never see eye-to-eye on important topics. It's stories like these that are finally bringing me around from the raised-by-a-mildly-Conservative but slowly coming around to the facts father.

The Factician said...

My condolences for yours and your family's loss.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss. Despite my differences with the War, I feel the pain and loss of the families of the fallen.

My niece's husband is a short-timer on his final tour and I really want to see him come back even though I have never met him.

Sebastian said...

I can definitely empathize — I just hope I don't gain the ability to sympathize. My little brother left last summer on his first tour, and it's already screwed him up for life. He's not even the same person he was when he left. I just hope he makes it back, and wanted to share some encouraging words — sadly, I can't find any.

Mike said...

I'm sorry for your loss and your mother's loss.

Try to cut her some slack - one of the ways she is coping is by imagining that the war is right.

She doesn't have to be right for you to love her. It is hard, but sometimes you just have to let the delusions stand. I'm sure you know that, but sometimes you need somebody else to say it.

GOPnot4me said...

My condolences for your loss. I'm an old Nam era vet who loathes Bush, Cheney, et al for their long list of cynical screw-ups. Today (Mar 10th) we passed the 4,000 fatalities mark and every one should be a criminal charge against Bushco. Your cousin's service and sacrifice stand in stark contrast to that of the administration. Best wishes to you and your family. Mike

spocko said...

Zeno my friend. I'm impressed with your ability to have a conversation with your mom that lasted that long. I totally hear that same conversation in my head. My mom has some of the exact same talking points.

The absorption of these messages from Fox and the talk radio hosts is hurting the country because it is unnecessarily dividing us. Imagine if your mom (and mine) were NOT constantly exposed to conversations where liberals and protesters were demonized? Would they so readily say just extreme things? They have all the ways to "get" the liberals all thought out and pre-digested by people like Rush, Hannity, Coulter and their ilk.

As I said, I personally dislike these kind of conversations and have worked to expose the sickness of the people whose job it is to spin them as "news" and "entertainment".

The one time I actually had a decent conversation with someone about his topic was when I kept asking questions. For each statement they made I asked (with genuine curiosity) why they believed that. Where did you first hear that statement?
Who told you that? Do you remember? Have you always believed this? What would it take for you to NOT believe that? Who would you believe? Is there ANYTHING or ANYONE who could change your mind? Really? I kept drilling down to try and get to their real core believe system.

And I found their their real belief system was hijacked. Multiple people took advantage of their belief systems.

Decent things that they believed had been twisted. For example supporting the troops turned into "hating people whose method of supporting the troops was to demand they be safe and not fight a unnecessary war in Iraq". They didn't NEED to go their, but talk radio people did. Because then we had a local enemy. An X vs. Y to sell as entertainment. And the left listened to because it made them angry and that is the dirty little secret about talk radio. Men on the left listen to it to get angry. It is like caffeine to them. (This is based on a recent study of mens and women's brains in a scan using FMRI)

And in my readings I've found out that the rhetorical method that Rush uses takes advantage of people's decent beliefs to get people on his side. A study showed that even people to disagree with someone like Rush are sometimes persuaded by this method because it starts with something we can both agree with.

And as someone who just lost his father, it makes me so sad that I allowed (and they allowed) people like Rush and Fox to severely divide us.
They divide the country for "entertainment and ratings." How many family fights have they helped escalate?

They are hurting America. And they know it. They need to stop.

Your fan,