Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Open Letter to Sgt. Smith

Here is a passionate submission to the local publication, The Tahoma Organizer, by my friend Michelle. She, and the Organizer, have been invaluable in this community for being a voice for all of us who care what's happening in our world. Please take a moment to read:

As originally posted at The Tahoma Organizer

An Open Letter to Sgt. Smith

by michelle — 2007-12-12 14:44

I’m sorry that I couldn’t look you in the eye when I saw you in the McDonalds line today.

I’m sorry that I was going to sneak a peek at you on the sly. As I stood behind you, I knew from your height, the width of your shoulders and length of your limbs, the perfect shape of your head and, to be honest, the curve of your buttocks under your uniform, that you just had to be gorgeous. You spoke to the girl behind the counter with a surprisingly rich voice, like a smooth but smoky shot of bourbon, and the inept young woman finally looked up to provide some service, gasped audibly, and didn’t look away from you as she stuttered through your order.

I’m sorry I admired your form even more as the muscles in your back tightened with what I thought was masculine pride at her stare. I’m sorry I couldn’t wait for you to turn around to give me my little thrill of the day.

I’m sorry that half of your face is gone.

I’m sorry your cheek and jaw bones are missing, and that the grafted skin over that grossly concaved canvass looks so painful. I’m sorry your right eye is gone and that I wondered what that obscene, horrific white thing in there was, the sliver that I could see, anyway.

I’m sorry you don’t look people in the face anymore.

I’m sorry that while we waited for our orders I stood beside you for three minutes and didn’t ask what happened, even though I know what happened, so that you could talk about it, explain in a loud voice that you are lucky to be alive and not a freak of nature.

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you how much pain I felt for your injury, for your new life, for the loss of yourself and the challenges you’ll have, maybe the love that you’ll miss, the conflict you must feel, have to feel, any time you are brave enough to look in a mirror.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that when I went to my car and burst into tears that I didn’t instead burst back into the restaurant and try to take you in my arms as a son or brother, husband or lover, neighbor, human-being, simple vertebrate, anything, to tell you how sorry I am for your loss, to lie to you and tell you everything is going to be alright.

I’m sorry that political parties send me straw polls asking me to help them prioritize our country’s “issues” and concerns, and that when I answer, it is blithely; that when ABC or CNN email me “breaking news” about the stock market I don’t find a way to insist they focus instead on this war and whether its vicious casualties are justified, and to not let go, hang on to that unholy bitch like a pitbull until we get answers and then act on them; that I haven’t sent even one, no, not one, letter to Congress or the President demanding an end or even just a time-out to this war until its purpose has been satisfactorily explained and understood, until we’re all grimly convinced the losses it incurs, including your face and future, really were and are unavoidably necessary.

I’m sorry that I did not start or participate in a different war, a bloodless but possible war that might have stopped the thoughtless and casual use of your flesh, that before I even put on a uniform I felt weary of the probable futility and rolled over, stomach up. It’s possible that when I rolled, my lazy flailing leg tripped the device that blasted your bones into pieces.

I’m sorry if you’ve been told or convinced you’re nobly protecting people like me, people who haven’t bothered to protect you. Because you were the vulnerable one. You enlisted to follow orders. You took orders from people who are supposed to take orders, ultimately, from the citizenry. Me. Us. And we haven’t demanded they be reasonable ones. We haven’t insisted they be held up to scrutiny every single day. Every minute. That very second you became someone no one will ever want to look at.

I’m sorry I didn’t storm the castle for you. You’d do it for me. There is hideous proof. I’m sorry I haven’t been held accountable for what’s happened to you, and to so many others like you. Because I am. I am the one who should hide my face.

I’m so, so sorry, but somehow glad, that I’ll never see you again, that you’ll never tell me you forgive me. Especially if you really do.

Yours, in shame, Michelle

Originally posted at The Tahoma Organizer