I drove through a picturesque Northeast town on a late-summer Saturday morning to a writer’s retreat. And driving alone, with nobody else to talk to, some simple thoughts came to my mind.
I thought about the quiet town in Heartland America — in this case, Rutland, Vermont. It could easily have been Carbondale, Illinois or Albany, New York where I lived for a number of years. Or, it could well have been Madison, Wisconsin, or Athens, Georgia, or Portland, Oregon, or Winston-Salem, North Carolina — American towns I’ve spent time in.
In small town Rutland, Vermont, on a late-summer Saturday morning, I saw a number of yard sales happening on Main Street. It was a narrow street, with a small number of volunteers controlling traffic. Driving through slowly, avoiding visitors attending the community event and gleefully but erratically crossing the streets to move from one sale to the next across the street, I thought about them. I looked at the way they were passing time on a Fall Saturday morning and having fun doing it. I rolled down my car window and listened to their happy smiles and happy talks.
I said to myself, do these men and women — young and old — in this small-town neighborhood of Rutland, Vermont know that their government, our government, is going to start another war on another distant land on the other side of the globe, drop bombs and grenades and rockets and missiles and other weapons of mass destruction, inevitably killing an unknown number of people, and severing limbs and crippling and maiming and hurting men and women — young and old — and permanently traumatizing an entire generation of children, just like those children that are having a good time along with their parents and uncles and aunts and brothers and sisters here in Rutland, Vermont here in Heartland America?
Okay now. Nobody, for God’s sake, even for a moment should think that I’m comparing violence and war and terrorism in another country with those possibly happening here in America. No, I do not condone violence in any shape or form. I reject violence. I reject war.
I condemn terror. Period.
I just had some thoughts about thoughts possibly happening in the minds of those people who I think can think. Of course, I did not have an opportunity to get off my car, and ask the men and women participating at the community yard sale how they felt about the imminent new war. I did not have time to ask them how the Syrian Sarin story — i.e., the chemical weapons story New York Times published and CNN and Fox aired was different from the Iraq WMD story we heard ten years ago. I wish I had ways to ask the Heartland people of Rutland, Vermont if they remembered the WMD story Judith Miller wrote for New York Times for weeks immediately preceding the 2003 American war on Iraq? (BTW, if you want to ask Ms. Miller directly, try Fox and Rupert Murdoch’s address. She now works for them.)
I drove through the milling Saturday morning crowd, slowly, making sure nobody was hurt and everybody was safe. I’ve always been a careful driver and never hurt anyone. I’m never rash. I’m sure most American drivers are just like me: caring, careful and cautious.
Most Americans care about human lives. They care about dignity of life. They especially care about children. I’ve always observed with great awe how Americans treat their children with maximum care. Their safety is top priority in America. I’ve seen it for many years.
I wish I had ways to ask the Heartland Rutland neighborhood how it felt about human lives and dignity in other places of the world — such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, or Syria.
I wish I could ask them how they felt about Syrian children.
Not that it would matter much. Because our governments — Bush or Obama governments with their McCains and Cheneys and Clintons and Kerrys — would bomb Iraq or Syria, one way or the other. They couldn’t care less about what the rest of the world says.
Many Syrian children will in all likelihood lose their parents soon. It’s going to be an Iraq genocide deja vu.
But I wanted to ask the ordinary men, women and children of America about it — only if I had a chance.
In Sincere Reflection,
Brooklyn, New York