Dear Mr. President,
I walked to work today in the pouring rain. My blood still boiling from last night, drums in my ears asking me to keep my compassion, to keep my cool, I walked and sulked and snapped at anything I could think of. I know, today is a day for remembering. Today is a day to remember the girls and boys we put in men's uniforms and gave weapons and made murderers (and murdered.) To remember the suits who sent them to their deaths and destinies. To remember the placid, peaceful suburbs and 3-day only sales we sent them to protect.
Sometimes I feel like I'm watching a microcosm of US history on fast-forward in Palestine. I fear that Palestinians face the same fate as the Native Americans; refugee camps like reservations, ostensible autonomy that creates isolation, not independence, dying traditions and tongues, hunted, then marginalized, disenfranchised, disarmed, disbanded, disappeared. When we remember the soldiers who have died for this country, do we also honor the dead who died for us to take it from them? Where is their bank holiday, their 3-day only sale? I'm so confused today, tangled up in the inevitable contradiction of being an American; of being born with blood on my hands, bearing the burden of an original sin, not against God but against my fellow man. I want to sort out these feelings; to tease out these threads into distinct narratives, of America, of Palestine, of wars and war crimes, to place it all on a timeline that makes sense.
Nothing makes sense today. Grief is giving way to disorientation and disbelief. Some lady was yelling at me about swiping her gift card too many times, because I might scratch it, and people are being taken off of a humanitarian ship in Haifa, to be taken to a room in the Tel Aviv airport, or to a prison cell, a hospital room, or a morgue. I'm just not sure I understand how these realities overlap. I've stepped, too far, off of some undersea shelf, and now I can only tread water. I can't tell if the White House thinks this is bad because it looks bad for Israel, or if, underneath the suits that control the truth, there are fathers who would not see their daughters suffer as daughters of fathers across Gaza are suffering. If you believe your own spin, or if you're saying it in the hopes of making the truth less devastating. Those boys in men's uniforms dropping down zip lines from choppers onto boats were acting in self defense. They were terrified of a truth so horrible it cannot be erased by bulletts. The truth that makes it so much harder to put on the uniform and pick up the gun. It was self defense, and if you say it enough times, it might be true.
In Washington, an unknown tomb is honored. The Schrödinger's cat of Identity. He could be white or black or Native or فلسطيني. Unknown could be any of us, bones bleached anciently to only human. The shifting, changing, contradictory American; he no longer needs to know how to live, it has been answered for him. He might have died for freedom, or security, or national unity; fighting the British, the Union, the Confederates or the Nazis. He might have fallen on a Pacific Island, or a Vietnamese jungle, or an Iraqi city. He might have been young, he might have been frightened, he might have been ready. He knows how to be an American, if he is all of these things.
Walking home, the rain had stopped. A day spent laboring under the layers of glass and steel and light that make up this city had made me tired, but hadn't made sense out of anything. I don't know what I remember and what I've just been told. I was told to remember those who died to make America safe for me. To teach me how to be an American on days like these. Overwhelmed, other people's memories wash over me; of Crow and of Blackfoot and of Cherokee, of Gettysburg and Bull's run and Blakely; of Pearl Harbor, and Dresden and Nagasaki; of Kabul and Baghdad and Karachi. (Of the dead, from a ship, in the darkness between Gaza and Turkey.) Lies are pouring in from men in suits on TV, while witnesses are being processed and discredited, until no one knows what they saw or who shot first. I still know what I believe. The drums haven't stopped. Compassion. Compassion. Compassion. I can't let it be taken from me.
To the dead, today, I remember you. I am humbled by your lives and how you lost them, for me. I still don't know how to be an American the way I am intended to, especially on days like these.