Inadequate Gratitude and Imperfect Sorrow
by Andrew Hudgins
I eat my Raisin Bran and walk the dog. The dog chases a squirrel, I teach my classes, eat supper, make love to my wife, and five American servicemen -- overwhelmingly they are men -- die violently in a foreign country, in my name. Sorrow is now the constant hum behind the routine things of life. I live with a sense of sorrow and inadequate gratitude that slips in and out of focus as I read the news one day and the next day skip it because I'm late for work.
We are living on the home front of a war. Yet many people do not seem to understand that lives are being sacrificed daily in their names, in the name of their country, for them -- because the ceremonies due the dead for their sacrifice are hidden. I have never felt as deep a contempt for politicians and the media as I do now on the question of whether or not the flag-draped coffins should be shown. Of course they should. Do we honor people by looking at them or by turning our heads away from them? The Republicans are trying to sweep the dead from sight, afraid that showing their pictures will erode support for the war, while the Democrats want to show the pictures, hoping they will turn voters against the president in an election year. The media want to show the pictures because they are pictures. We have no sense of the sacred.
I grew up in a military family. We said, and everyone I knew said, our fathers were in the service. The service -- as if all other forms of service were secondary, a verity I believe and have never stopped believing. The word did not smack of subservience or the "service economy," but of an ancient, knightly tradition of a sacrifice adapted to the ideals of a democracy. Our fathers served the security of the nation. They protected the country. Their lives were ennobled by their submission to a greater good. They were both almost holy and expendable, as is true of today's servicemen and servicewomen.