Friday, November 19, 2004
An AP photo from Iraq.
In Hiroshima, after the bomb blast, people who had been vaporized in their tracks left behind the outlines of their bodies, as if someone had done charcoal tracings of them at the moment when death came.
My friend, Maura Stephens and her husband, George Sapio, journeyed to Iraq prior to the latest U.S. invasion. Their story is here . On the trip, they visited a memorial to a bomb shelter. It had been a safe haven where Iraqi families had gone to seek refuge during one of our bombing raids during Gulf War I. The shelter was obliterated by an American bomb, and the souls within it were killed. On a concrete wall, the remnant of the shelter, are the shadows. The one that haunts me is the mother, cradling an infant. She was breastfeeding at the moment when the explosion reduced her and her infant to charcoal. (You can find the photo on page 3 of the article.)
Why can't I stop thinking of Plato's Allegory of the Cave? How all those people are crouched in the cave, watching the flickering shadows, afraid to leave? How in the US, we've become a nation in which we watch the flickering images on our television screens and think we're seeing the world, understanding reality? And what happens to us now that our government has decided that we can't see the real images from Iraq?
And why can't I stop thinking about that mother? In the chaos of the bombing raid, as her child no doubt screamed in terror of the noise and the lights, she offered the only thing she had: her body as pacifier, as nurturance.
This is a government that claims to love motherhood. We love it so much we want every woman to get to experience it, regardless of whether she wants to. After all, they told us that "W stands for Women?" But wasn't this Iraqi woman a mother, too?