Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Ghost Factory

More young Americans have been killed in Afghanistan today. I have just been looking at their pictures on line. And they remind me of nothing so much as those of my high school classmates killed in Vietnam.

I used to write in my yearbook each time I learned that another one had died. Above their photographs I would hand print "Killed in Vietnam" and below, the date. Five, ten, fifteen... eventually I lost count. But what haunts me is the fact that the faces now are so much the same: young men, boys really, smiling, earnest, innocent. In the past, every time I visited Washington, I went to The Wall to look for their names, and each time I traced them with my fingertips. Not just names -- memories of boys I knew, with whom I shared lockers, classes, laughs and the hysterical agonies and joys of growing up. Dead. All dead. Forever.

It's happening again. Now at this point in our history, and at my age; and though politicians and pundits can explain at length the necessity of it, still no one can express the loss. The poignant inevitability. The emptiness. The senselessness. Walt Whitman, a Civil War nurse, wrote: Think how much, and of importance, has been lost forever, buried in the grave, in eternal darkness. They had parents, they had promise, they had lives and loves. To which they were entitled. Just like you and me.

And our "president" enjoys a ten day vacation on Martha's Vineyard.