Like many good Americans, I have been remiss. The war in Iraq has faded and fallen off my radar, and I no longer ask questions like “What is our plan for withdrawal?” and “What was all of this about in the first place?”
In the meantime, soldiers are losing limbs by the tens of thousands, along with their lives, and countless (countless – we don’t know how many Iraqis have been killed) lives that never had us on their radar–and these words simply gloss over the realities they imply.
Some soldiers respond, speak out even. The broken ones are flown home & often get entangled in the red tape that prevents them from receiving the care needed to recuperate. Their voices somehow don’t find much media coverage. I wonder why. The laments of the disenfranchised don’t make news? They want their country to hear about the atrocities they witnessed & lived firsthand? Can those stories and images be dismissed as “Anti-American”? I imagine it’s simplier to deny them a microphone or camera, because it’s not so easy to label a soldier who has fought for this country “unpatriotic”.
The average American might be more invested if we name those sent off to fight and possibly get hurt or die. It’s fairly well known that these soldiers are in fact our mothers, fathers, friends, neighbors, students (I have a vet from Iraq in one of my classes), and fellow citizens; this particular soldier is an artist and unhappy camper. His options are limited, & red-taped as well, but he’s making an attempt, which is more than I can admit. That has to change. I don’t mean to be on a high horse; I’m as angry at myself as anyone for choosing to be ignorant in my very safe passivity. Suggestions for continued reaction to the war in Iraq welcome here.
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Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.