I am on my soapbox tonight, so no wonderful mockingbird essays on this post. I'll be back to my normal, more or less, self tomorrow.
This afternoon I received the following email from a woman I like very much. She's one of my favorite folks, and her group emails are always forwarded funny stories and jokes. I can't duplicate the blaring red typescript in huge font. The whole presentation was, shall we say, very much in-your-face. I was surprised to be getting this kind of email from her. It was probably just an oversight. Hit the send button and, whoops, there it goes. Still, I also felt I should respond, so I sent her the link to an early post of my poem, "Her Daughter," at http://kathrynstriplingbyer.blogspot.com/2008/07/from-north-carolina-to-iraq.html. Maybe responding with a poem is the best response, I decided. You know we poets are supposed to be the unacknowledged legislators of the world, right?
It's been a good while since I received such an email. I had way too many similar ones forwarded to me after the invasion of Iraq, usually from friends who were appalled by what their families or former high school classmates had sent them justifying the invasion.
The last one I received was a scurrilous fabrication from some right-wing Internet mill smearing black people evacuated post-Katrina from New Orleans to Houston, all on the basis of observations by a doctor who claimed to have been sent there to help. The problem? There was no such doctor. His credentials could not be tracked down. The university hospital at which he claimed to work had never heard of him. I urged the sender of this email to be wary. There's a lot of garbage out there on the email circuit.
There's a lot to go after in this piece, too, and I wonder, like the above-mentioned Katrina email, how credible it is when it comes down to detail. I have no quibble with the young soldier's pleasure at being welcomed home so positively. It's the supermarket scene that makes me pause. The situation sounds contrived, or at least exaggerated, in order to give the speaker at the end a chance to say--oh yes, here we go--America, Love it or Leave it.
One does occasionally see women in burkhas in this country. How eager would such a woman be to speak out over a flag lapel, however, considering the prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment? The arrogance of the "gentle" man at the end comes through loud and clear. If indeed the woman did make her comment to the checkout girl, she was well within her rights to do so, especially considering the civilian body-count we have left behind in Iraq. And, perish the thought, she could be a bona-fide Iraqi-American with family back in the homeland, family that had lost members, as the mother in my poem lost her daughter to American bombs. In any case, since this is a democracy, we are all, even the checkout girl, theoretically responsible for what our government does.
As for the young soldier,I hope he stays alive and well. My sympathies are with him. He never says a word in the checkout line. He is the pawn in the story. (Sound familiar?)
Because I am asked to send this on to my PROUD AMERICAN Friends (another clue that this is likely a trumped-up story), I am doing so. (Which raises an issue I've been wanting to write about since 9/11--why the PROUD? Pride is, after all, one of the seven deadly sins. And yet we as a nation are obsessed with being PROUD. All the while being so often indifferent to any other nation's sense of "pride.")
As my friend Vicki Lane said in the post I've linked to above, ignorance and fear make a dangerous mix. I would also add arrogance; it rhymes with ignorance and makes a good poetic partner with that attribute.
SO HERE IS THE EMAIL! RED FONT FLASHING (use your imagination!)
OH HECK YEAH! Love This Comeback
One of my sons serves in the military. He is still stateside, here in California . He called me yesterday to let me know how warm and welcoming people were to him and his troops everywhere he goes, telling me how people shake their hands and thank them for being willing to serve and fight for not only our own freedoms, but so that others may have them also.
But he also told me about an incident in the grocery store he stopped at yesterday on his way home from the base. He said that ahead of several people in front of him stood a woman dressed in a burkha. He said when she got to the cashier she loudly remarked about the U..S. flag lapel pin the cashier wore on her smock. The cashier reached up and touched the pin, and said proudly, 'Yes, I always wear it and probably always will.' The woman in the burkha then asked the cashier when she was going to stop bombing her countrymen, explaining that she was Iraqi. A gentleman standing behind my son stepped forward. Putting his arm around my son's shoulders and nodding towards my son, he said in a calm and gentle voice to the Iraqi woman: 'Lady, hundreds of thousands of men and women like this young man have fought and died so that YOU could stand here, in MY country and accuse a check-out cashier of bombing YOUR countrymen. It is my belief that had you been this outspoken in YOUR own country, we wouldn't need to be there today. But, hey, if you have now learned how to speak out so loudly and clearly, I'll gladly buy you a ticket and pay your way back to Iraq so you can straighten out the mess in YOUR country that you are obviously here in MY country to avoid. Everyone with in hearing distance cheered!
Pass this on to all your proud American friends. I just did.
And there you have it. Voila! As those pesky French like to say. What do they have to be proud about? Freedom fries?