Monday, July 02, 2007

Rest in Peace

A couple of months ago I signed up to be part of the Mother's Day Project (and see the main project site, too). I guess you would call it a protest against the Iraq war. People are embroidering the names of the female soldiers who have died in Iraq. The embroidered names will be assembled into tote bags, and each person who has embroidered a name will use a bag for a while.

I've had a lot of ambivalent feelings about this. I have been opposed to the war in Iraq from before it even started -- I wrote President Bush in October 2001 when he first started conflating Iraq and al Qaeda, asking him to please exercise restraint. It's pretty clear how much influence I have in the White House. But then I've been a liberal who votes Democratic or Independent for my whole adult life. I've watched the war turn into a worse mess than I ever imagined it could be, but I haven't really seen anything I could do about it (except vote, which I've certainly done, to what avail I don't know).

I'm not sure what good this project will do. And I wonder about using the names of women soldiers only. How is the death of a woman worse than that of a man? I suppose that most of us embroidering are women, and perhaps might be able to place ourselves a little more in the shoes of a female soldier. Really, though, I think it's just that the number of dead women is more manageable than the number of dead men. Horrible, isn't it? And who is embroidering the names of the Iraqi civilians? But in the end, I kept on thinking about this project, and so I volunteered.

In due time I got my name, but I didn't start embroidering. I put it in the back of my mind, and let it float to the surface every once in a while. I wondered about her, and her family, and I wondered what it would be like to be a soldier. My father was in the Army in the 50's, but he was a lifeguard at White Sands Proving Grounds. My uncle was in the Navy, I think, but we've never talked about it.

It wasn't until I moved to Oklahoma that I met very many military families. And I'm sure that the people I know aren't typical of the Armed Forces -- or at least aren't representative in any statistically valid way. But they sure have put a personal face on it for me. And it makes me wonder what the family of this soldier might feel about the Mother's Day Project. So I'm not going to use her name here. I just don't think my feelings have much to do with her, or her family.

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling discouraged and low, and decided to pick up this project, I guess as a way of reminding myself that hey, at least I'm still alive. Then that struck me as a pretty self-centered way of approaching this. So I spent some time googling the soldier and reading and thinking about her life and death, but I didn't start stitching.

For whatever reason, today seemed like the right time to get started. I had been thinking about thread colors -- black for loss? camouflage for the Army? red for blood? something else? -- when I remembered reading about her new car. I checked again and sure enough, her car was red. So I went with red for the car she loved, and red for her death.

I used some thread I had on hand. As I started work I realized it wasn't the best quality, but I decided to keep using it; it reminded me of stories I've read about the unarmored vehicles that soldiers were reinforcing on their own with whatever they could find in Iraq. And some of my stitching wasn't the best -- I'm not a very experienced embroiderer -- but I decided I didn't get any do-overs. She didn't. And it didn't take very long to do, which also seemed appropriate; she didn't have a very long life. I don't want to belabor this too much. What I'm doing doesn't have much to do with the soldier whose name I embroidered -- the choices she made, the things she was proud of, the way she voted. But I hope it's at least a small way of saying I hate what has happened -- is happening -- in Iraq, but I respect the soldiers who are victims of these terrible decisions.

It has been a surprisingly moving experience for me to embroider this one small name. I'm glad I did so.


Shan said...

This is a very poignant post. I liked this:

"I respect the soldiers who are a victim of these terrible decisions."

Maia said...

Very touching post. Thank you.

Sara said...

What a moving post.

I tried to post yesterday but it didn't go through ;)

Yes, the short-row "pill box" hat has elastic in the hem. Though I'm not sure it's crucial. I knit the hem like I do a picot hem/rib on a sock - I pick up the last row of the hem with the first row and knit it down. I encase the elastic before knitting - but you could easily check the fit of the hat before closing the hem and not add the elastic.