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Language of the Heart | The Nation

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Language of the Heart

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First published at truthout.org.

About the Author

Also by the Author

A dialogue between the peace activist and The Nation's editor over Sheehan's plan to run for Congress against Representative Nancy Pelosi.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I have been in Europe for two weeks now. I have been toasted by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, and greeted by foreign ministers, a vice president and members of the various parliaments. Those stories are for another article.

My highest honor both here in the States and in Europe now is meeting with the families of children murdered in George Bush's War of Terror against the world.

No matter if we all speak differently accented English, Spanish, or the heavy Glaswegian accent of my Scottish sister in sorrow, Rose Gentle--whose gentle-giant son, Gordon, was killed by Blair and Bush in Iraq in July of 2004--our hearts all speak the same idiom of pain, and we sing the same lament of futile loss.

In Scotland, as we were meeting with Ministers of Parliament and urging them to stand up to the government in London and withdraw Scottish troops from Iraq, I met a woman named Sue Smith, whose son Philip was killed in Iraq this past July. Her voice vibrated and fluctuated with incalculable loss as she spoke of the betrayal that she felt at burying her son too early and for the lies of her Prime Minister: a co-war criminal with George Bush. The wound in her heart was fresh and openly bleeding. In her wounded eyes I saw my heart as it was about a year ago.

At the International Peace Conference in London, I met Shaun Brierly's dad, Peter. Shaun was in the British Army, and he was killed in Iraq in March of 2003 in the very early days of the war. Peter lugged my heavy satchel around London with quiet good humor. In his heavy Yorkshire accent, he tried to describe to me what losing his son has done to him and his family. We drank a pint in a pub to our boys and to our hurt but especially to our hearts' resolve to end this war and expose the villains who mislead our countries so shamelessly. Through our blinked-back tears we promised each other we would stay strong.

Also at the Peace Conference were Reg Keys and John Miller. Reg's son Tom was KIA along with John's son, Simon. We attended a few events together, and I teased them about the suits they were wearing, and they teased me about my "gym" clothes. Reg stood against Tony Blair for Prime Minister of the UK last year and made a respectable showing. John and Reg are hanging in together with their pain. It is so hard for dads. It is easier for us moms to express our heart pain as the dads try to head their heartache off at the pass. I also met Ann Laurence, who described her beautiful English countryside home to me and showed me pictures of her handsome son, Marc. She had a quiet voice and eyes filled with heaviness and tears ready to overflow at any moment.

In Spain, I met two women whose sons were callously murdered by the policies of our two governments: governments and leaders who hand in jaded hand took our countries to an impossible and immoral invasion and occupation of an innocent and mostly defenseless country.

Maribel Permuy is the mother of slain Spanish cameraman Jose Couso. Jose was murdered in the Palestine Hotel on April 8, 2003, along with other journalists. With new evidence coming out that George Bush wanted to kill Al Jazeera journalists, and with the targeting of Giuliana Sgrena and her rescuers, I find it so hard to believe that Jose's murder was an accident. In fact, a Spanish magistrate has indicted the three US troops who fired a missile at the hotel. The one who should be indicted, though, is George Bush. Maribel speaks not one word of English and I speak very little Spanish, but our hearts are connected in sorrow and also hope. I am called "Madre Coraje" (Mother Courage) in Spain and Latin American countries. However, Maribel is Madre Mas Coraje. She has steely and uncompromising resolve to see justice done for her son Jose. Her unconditional and undying love for Jose and her other children gives her the strength to fight against her government and mine. We laughed and cried so much together, I wonder how we could have communicated any better if we spoke the same language?

I also met Pilar Mahon in Madrid. Her son, Daniel, was killed in the terrorist bombings of March 11, 2004. The day I met her would have been Daniel's 22nd birthday. Her nose and eyes were red from a day of mourning her son. She could barely speak, but when she did, her voice rose in anger against George Bush and Spain's former President Aznar, who took our countries to an unnecessary war based on the pipe dreams of the heartless neocons who are even now holding tenuously onto their power base. The same falsehoods of "fighting them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here" killed both Casey and Daniel. I get filled with outrage when I meet people like Pilar who should be celebrating their son's birthday and Christmas but who spend days weeping at their child's final resting place. In spite of her constant longing for Daniel, Pilar is leading the fight in Spain for the rights of the families affected by the March 11 terrorist attack.

There are so many people in this world who will be celebrating sorrow-filled holidays this year. Christmas is so hard for us, not only because our children are dead, but because we remember the Christmases past that were filled with joy and happiness. It is so painful to remember the Christmas mornings when the kids would get up before the sun came up and beg Mom and Dad to get up so they could open what Santa had brought them. It is too painful to get out the decorations and hang the one sock that will remain empty for eternity. So most of us skip the traditional Christmas and do whatever we can to support each other through the devastation that our lives have become. Devastation that is so needless and avoidable. Our hearts go out to all families who are experiencing the pain of loss instead of the joy of togetherness this year.

George Bush and the other purveyors of pain can take a day off from spying on Americans without due process to celebrate the holidays with their families. Dick "the Grinch" Cheney made a "surprise" visit to Iraq the other day. His black heart feels no pain for the tragic loss of life that his greed has caused. How dare he show his face in a country that has been destroyed by his insatiable quest for black gold and his obscene lust for profits for his company Halliburton and the other war profiteers?

The pain that these people have caused the world is inestimable. The people of the world want an accounting for the pain and they want the people who seem to be getting off scot-free to be brought to some kind of justice for the damage they have wrought on humanity.

This Christmas, as you fill your children's or grandchildren's stockings, wrap and unwrap presents, cook your holiday meals, light your Menorah or dance around your Festivus pole, or however you celebrate your holidays, please remember the families who will be trying to enjoy the holiday season with a part of them missing. But most of all, please remember the people (American and Iraqi) in harm's way in Iraq for the old lies and the new lies that seem to surface with the same frequency as a Republican corruption scandal.

In conclusion, this is an excerpt of an email I received from a mother in Iraq whose son Zaydoun Mamoun Fadhil Al-Samarai, a Shi'a insurgent, was involved in the same battle in which Casey was killed. Zaydoun was later killed.

We, my friend, in the march of pain could work together, each from where she is, toward putting an end to the blood shed and toward peace and love to prevail, instead of war.

We could, my lady, work together toward peace and toward putting an end to the blood shed and give all mothers a hope for happiness because we experience pain when we lost our sons. Because, he who did not experience pain cannot understand happiness.

I will be very happy when the war ends so we can celebrate in my town, Samara, which witnessed the birth of my oldest son, Zaydoun, who I thought would mourn me when I die, but, unfortunately, I mourned him one month before his wedding.

I am conveying his fiancée's greeting, who is still mourning him.

At the end, please accept my deepest sympathies, from a mother who lost her son to another mother who lost her son.

I hope to be able to meet with you on the march for peace and love.

George Bush, et al, have taught too many people in this world the language of pain by their lies and their doctrines of pre-emptive killing for profit.

We need to learn a new language of peace and love that we can speak, even shout, to our leaders who only understand the language of greed and murder.

Peace, shalom, paz, salaam.

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