Sixteen years ago I was innocent. I did not know how to think beyond my own family, tribe, and religion. Sadly I had little empathy for the other, although I thought I did. When George W. Bush won the election for US President, not with the popular vote, but by a vote of the conservative US Supreme Court, I was glad it was over, and like many Americans, I was glad that my candidate prevailed. At that time I was part of a woman’s writing group and unbeknownst to me, all the other women in this group were devastated by the defeat of Al Gore, their candidate of choice. They were angry and bitter, not ready to be conciliatory. I did not feel their pain, nor did I understand it. I just dismissed them as Liberals.
Fast forward to 2016. Now I am the one who is angry, bitter, not ready to be conciliatory. I do know their pain. I know exactly how they felt, as I am now the one mourning the loss of a dream. How, you may ask, did I, a conservative thinking middle age white lady, become a progressive older woman? My shift toward the left also started with anger not long after that contested Presidential election of 2000 .
When our son, who joined the army in July 2001, just months before 9-11, called us from Ft. Campbell Kentucky in January 2003 to say he, along with over 20,000 plus soldiers of the 101st Airborne were definitely being deployed to Kuwait where they would join the US invasion forces marching into Iraq, we felt our whole world tilt. Even though my husband and I thought this might be coming, we were still unprepared for the actual event. And since we could do nothing to keep our son out of harm’s way, we both directed our anger at those responsible for this unprovoked act of aggression on the sovereign country of Iraq. For the next year we watched the news, railed and prayed, helpless to stop the events unfolding on the other side of the globe.
I know now that I was suffering from depression during those months. I would get angry if someone said or acted like they supported the war. I’d say “You don’t have a son over there,” or “How would you feel if [fill in name of their child here] was in Iraq in danger every day?”
And when someone spoke out against the war, I’d get defensive and think they did not care about the soldiers or my son. I could not be appeased. I remember walking in the grocery store and being angry because someone smiled at me. I thought, “Sure you can smile, you don’t have a son in Iraq.” I carried a stone in my gut; anxiety would hit me at unexpected times. I was helpless and did not trust the outcome. I did not ask God to save my son, because I knew too many mothers whose sons were not saved. I felt that my son and our family were not special and deserving of divine protection.
Fast forward twelve years. I again feel helpless and scared. I feel like I have no control over the events that will unfold over the next four years under a Trump presidency and a Republican administration. But this time I am not afraid for myself or my family, but for all those who will be hurt by stingy hateful politics, directed at minorities, poor, the refugee, the immigrants. I am afraid for the world. I even fear the start of another war, maybe some kind of nuclear exchange, initiated by us, the United States. Again!
For the record, our son did make it home after serving a year in Iraq. I still recall the euphoria we felt the day we received the call from him saying, “I’m back in Kuwait.” It was as though a tremendous weight had been lifted off our souls. We began dancing and jumping around the room, like team mates who just won the World Series. The nightmare was over then. I wish someone could take this current nightmare away from us. “Oh Lord Help this country”, I pray. “Save us from ourselves and this madness.”