Friday, May 14, 2010

Bloggin Blunders

**Update Below

So, almost two years ago I posted something about an experience I had flying across the country in a plane that carried the dead body of a soldier from Iraq. I had only recently begun writing the blog and had very few readers. I knew it was going to be a controversial post but I was unafraid to post it because honoring dead soldiers or honoring soldiers at all, to me, is a conflict. It's not a conflict for me to honor a person who has done great things, and I'm certain that many, many soldiers have done great things. I have to say, though, that I have always, always felt uncomfortable singling out soldiers as somehow worthy of honor just because they're soldiers. I know this is a messy thing and perhaps with this post I'll really offend someone given the numbers of readers that I have now. Today, ironically, I got a comment from that old post and it stirred me up, helped me to want to clarify my own feelings. If you're at all interested, you can read the post HERE.

This is the comment that I got today from someone named BCC:

I think you tragically misunderstand the nature of the oath a soldier takes. It is to defend the country and the Constitution. And that means going where the President sends him. He chose to defend you and your family, the President chose to deploy him to Iraq. It behooves you to understand the difference.

I find your post very offensive. I will nonetheless refrain from saying something very offensive about YOUR child, despite the callousness with which you disregard the lives and sacrifices of the children of others. 

Hmmmm. My heart beat a little faster when I read those lines. I went back and re-read the post. I winced a bit because it was basically a complaining post, one that I wrote after a horrendous trip home with Sophie from a very difficult family vacation. I thought I had explained, though, that there was a moment when I realized how petty my own feelings were, especially compared to the family of that dead soldier. I admonished myself internally and surrendered in that moment. 

But that moment of surrender, when I put a face on that dead soldier and thought about his parents, doesn't obviate the fact that I believed then and still believe in the utter senselessness of that war. That war was and continues NOT to be one where my "liberty" and "freedom" is being defended. The thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of civilians who have died in the almost seven years of that war have, I believe, died for no good reason. I concede that this view is offensive to many, but it is what I believe and does not demonstrate a disrespect for any soldier personally. I understand what BCC means when he explains the soldier's oath to "defend the country and the Constitution." I understand that once a soldier makes that oath he is bound to do whatever his President tells him to do and to go wherever he is told to go. I get that, but I don't necessarily believe that's an honorable thing in and of itself. I am grateful to those soldiers who have fought and truly defended and even won our liberties but I am not blindly grateful. Whenever killing is involved, I'm not sure there's much to be grateful for. This is a messy thing and I guess I refuse to recite or even acknowledge patriotic platitudes.

And so, BCC, if you continue to read my blog, I apologize for offending your sense of patriotism. I can see why you thought I was callous toward the dead soldier -- I was callous but I thought I had acknowledged that in my words. The death of that boy was a tragic, senseless waste.  As for your very nicely written denunciation of my patriotism, well, I have to say that as defined by you, yes, I am unpatriotic. Perhaps that makes me uniquely American, no?

**UPDATE: Evidently, commenter BCC has been combing through my posts for literally hours (BCC, if you're reading this, your activity is evident on my statcounter), and looking for all "unpatriotic" comments that he/she feels compelled to comment on, sometimes quite nastily. While I respect your right to read and comment freely and, of course, to express your opinion and judgement of myself, my children and my husband, I would recommend not reading quite so assiduously and therefore protect your mental health. I only say that as a like-minded person of the polar opposite who has spent great amounts of wasted time reading the blogs of those whose views are in such opposition to mine. It generally makes me sick to my stomach and I can only imagine how you feel right now after spending more than three hours perusing my own twisted views.


  1. While in my reading it was evident that your attitude transformed into empathy as you 'melted into patience' and you regarded the death of this young man as pure tragedy, I can also see how someone - especially if s/he has a loved one in Iraq -might take offense. For me your empathy and sympathy were easily perceivable in your post, but I also know that you are anything but callous. What wasn't so easily perceivable though is what 'YOUR' child has to do with your views on the war and why your commenter would have the urge to make a callous comment regarding her. Or him, as it wasn't clear which one of your child provoked said urge. Honestly, just the hint that it's Sophie makes me kind of sick.

    I will not comment on the war in Iraq, but war in general - regardless how necessary - is nasty and cruel and there is nothing glorious about it. It's especially nasty when it's fought on your backyard as opposed to some obscure location far far away.

    Two of my favorite quotes from Vonnegut- and he talks/writes about the war agains Nazi Germany, which was absolutely necessary:

    "You know we've had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock "My God, my God—" I said to myself. "It's the Children's Crusade."
    (Slaughterhouse Five)

    "Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns."
    (Cat's Cradle)

  2. Rather than talk about the actual contents of both these posts, I'd like to say something about the hazards of writing in the blogosphere.

    The likelihood of offending someone is always there, however well thought through and balanced our posts.

    To me you were writing from your experience, about your experience. You were telling us about what it was like for you on that plane trip.

    I certainly resonate with this type of experience. When you feel you should be sensitive to someone else's pain but you are overwhelmed by your own turmoil and there is only so much you can take.

    I admire your courage in posting both these pieces, Elizabeth. Thank you.

  3. I hung out out at Camp Casey (mostly Camp Casey II) with other protestors outside of Bush's Ranch Home in Crawford, Texas. I had a friend whose 14 year old had died unexpectedly from cardiomyapothy so she felt a strong kinship to Cindy Sheehan and seriously worried about her and went to check in on her frequently, so I went with her, kids in tow.

    You wrote this so close to mother's day when I think everyone should be "behooved" to at least try and recognize what a mother feels when she loses a child. All of the government appeals to honor that child do not help, although perhaps it is better than what happened during the Vietnam War when soldiers came back with no validation, whatsoever.

    The first U.S. incarnation of mother's day was a peace movement established during the Civil War. It was an attempt by women who had lost children in the Civil War to reconcile families on both sides.

    It was never meant to be a trivial card buying holiday.

  4. Meant to say - I appreciate your honesty. Somehow, the description you offered of the soldier being placed with the luggage of passengers simply trying to get on with their daily activities felt something akin to a hallmark mother's day card to me. Superficial.

  5. Several years ago I believe I would have been stoned to death by a group on an internet forum for my refusal to recite " I support the troops" any time I challenged the invasion of Iraq. Simply because I wouldn't preface my criticism with this. It's not that I was disrespectful to the men & women in uniform, but that that silly platitude seemed to make people feel somehow OK with the conflict and with their own complacency. And I have always wondered how an individual became a 'troop'. I think a way to dehumanize the person.

    It is a controversial topic, one which I agree with you on and one I think will be argued, sadly, for years to come. We seem to be dedicated to armed conflict.

  6. I admire your courage and honesty. I, personally, am a giant wimp back when it comes to posting anything remotely controversial. On the one hand, I can see why someone -- particularly someone with a loved one serving in the military -- might have been hurt by your post. That said, it did seem clear to me that you had a moment of revelation as you felt compassion and empathy for the grieving parents of that soldier.

    The part in BBC's comment about Sophie was uneccessary. Yet haven't we all said or written something in anger and hurt that isn't fair or right? I'm not excusing his/her hurtful remark...just simply acknowledging that we all lash out with hurtful remarks at times when we are feeling vulnerable.

  7. Look- I think that as some of us have the religion gene and some do not, some of us have the patriotism gene and some do not.
    I do not have it either. Why should I get all worked up about "my" country when all I did was get born here by pure sheer accident?
    I have a lot to say about this post and I won't say all of it. All I will say is that I understand completely what you are saying about soldiers and about war. And glorifying either is wrong. To my mind.
    And that each of us writes from our own perspective and if we are afraid to tell the truth as we feel it in our own hearts- what is the point and why should we bother?
    I love you, Elizabeth. You show bravery in every aspect of your life and this is yet one more.

  8. I'll read the older post, but regardless,
    it would be ludicrous to think for a moment that you don't value someone's life .
    There is nothing but honour in believing in peace.

  9. I love the internet, and how it connects people all over, and helps share ideas, stories and inspiration. I'm saddened when it's used as an impersonal and anonymous mean to convey unkind and unnecessary remarks.

  10. My honest opinion is that you did nothing wrong. And I'm not saying this because I follow your blog but because I find the reply from BCC patronising. When a soldier takes an oath, he or she is making a decision. There's no conscription in the US or in the UK, unlike in my country of origin, Cuba, where men have to do military service. So, BCC, when a soldier 'chooses' to fight for his or her country, he or she is also opening themselves to criticism. Whether the criticism is merited or not is subjective, but that a blogger is allowed to make the comment, it's beyond dispute. I also find the inclusion of Elizabeth's daughter into the discussion as a blow below the belt. It's the type of emotional blackmail the US suffered from during the Bush years (Jnr, not Snr) and which I would have thought you were doing your best to leave behind.

    Many thanks for the post.

    Greetings from London.

  11. I think it's a tragedy that young men, and women, lose their lives in war. An even bigger tragedy is that human beings still fight wars. We are all the same and what we do to the "other", we do to ourselves.

  12. You know you have arrived in Blogland when you start getting those kinds of posts and scrutiny. Congratulations.

  13. Elizabeth, I must have missed this when you posted it. The only thing I can disagree with is your assumption that the soldier volunteered to fight in Iraq. It's likely, of course, but a lot of men and women volunteered after 9/11 to defeat Osama bin Laden and had no interest in Bush's war of choice. Others volunteered less to fight the war but to keep food on the family table.

    But your your original post was full of empathy. BCC, on the other hand, by his announcement that he would "refrain from saying something very offensive about YOUR child" has done so by implication.

    Like all of your posts, it's beautifully written and thought-provoking.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...