To my friend, Taryn, founder of the American Widow Project
I’m watching the post-Bin Laden era unfold and wondering how this spectacle is affecting you. God knows it must make you miss Michael. Not that you don’t miss him all the time. Part of your mission is to raise awareness of and respect for our troops, a word that for most people is a just a word. An image. A list of casualties crawling on the bottom of the screen. What it isn’t is the way the clouds parted when he smiled, his signature scent, how he was so good at (fill in the blank). How your mother adored him or the time he stayed up half the night when your 4-year-old had the flu. For you, this is not a statistic. It’s the permanently etched outline on his side of the bed. The last voice you heard before slipping into slumber. Is it insensitive to imply that we’re only affected by tragedy when it shatters the windows of the house across the street? How to care without jeopardizing our fragile sense of security, especially in catastrophic circumstances?
There is something about pain that reaches across the aisle; it’s the bottomless pit in our collective consciousness; tragedies of global scale and epic proportions the stuff so dramatic that if it isn’t happening to us, it may as well be. There but for the grace of God … I am not a widow. I haven’t served in the military. I didn’t know my father’s assignment in World War II (he camouflaged aircraft carriers) until shortly before his death. None of my friends served. My personal theory: An entire generation knows where we were when Kennedy was shot; then Ruby killed Oswald and we’re still glued to the screen, afraid we might miss something. So how to care? How to honor those whose sacrifices, to us, are more abstract than personal? You’re in the Situation Room doesn’t mean you’re in the Situation Room.
But it’s not all blood and guts. Just when we think we can’t watch another special report about sex slaves in America, great news comes out of nowhere, like a double rainbow. Young people defiantly dance in the streets of Cairo. Young people joyously celebrate on sacred Ground Zero. Halfway across the world, in our own back yard. For me, this is history in the making. For you it’s flesh and blood, bittersweet memories of the person whose smile parted the clouds on days when you were lost, whose confidence made the whole world safer — not just your life but my life, our lives. I’m guessing he would have loved the party at Ground Zero. So I honor it by remembering your hero, Cpl. Michael Davis, and the world he lost so we could have ours.