Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

It's sad

when someone who dedicated three decades of her life to improving that of the Iraqi people is repaid for her work by being murdered by insurgents who care nothing for human life. My thoughts are with Margaret Hassan's family and friends--whether Irish, British, or Iraqi--and with those who tried to stop her murder. I think the vast majority of people, including those in the Middle East, would see this as a terrible act, and I can only hope that this sort of killing will no longer be tolerated. We need more Margaret Hassans in the world.

On another vaguely related note, I was driving away from work today when I came to an intersection where a policeman was taking the light offline and bringing traffic along our road to a halt. It was not at first apparent as to why for we sat for a minute or so with nothing happening. Then, slowly, they came.

Most funerals processions in the city are aided by the police to help keep the procession together through the various intersections. The first police cruiser was expected. But this was no ordinary funeral line, for several police motorcycles provided an honour guard accompanying a hearse followed by a painfully long line of mourners, including a fire van and a man on a motorcycle bearing a POW/MIA flag. I knew from the moment I saw the honour guard that this was the funeral cortege of Lance Cpl. Sean Langley, a Marine killed last week in Iraq. His mother is a member of the Lexington police force; his father is the assistant chief of police with the Veterans Administration. The 20-year-old--killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq--had planned to follow them into law enforcement.

Most people sat in their cars with a sort of respectful hush falling over the area. One tow truck drive about a block behind me loudly swerved into one of the side streets and sped away, unwilling to stop for a few moments. I'm not sure he could tell what was going on from his vantage point. But for the rest of us, it was a reminder that sometimes the things we rush towards are not so important, and that sometimes you really just need to come to a halt and consider what is important.

I have to admit, when I saw the hearse, I cried, which doesn't make sense, I suppose, given the fact that I didn't know Sean Langley. But I raised in a military family, and there is such a deep, ingrained fear of what may happen that these families live with every day, and it touches me even though no one in my family is currently serving. I've always abhorred war, but I've also respected the willingness to serve and sacrifice displayed by soldiers. Right then I had a terrible moment where I looked at the procession and thought to myself...'this young man died for me'. One can argue about the reasons or the folly of this war, but the fact is, those men and women serving do so because they believe in making a difference, in learning new skills, but also in protecting our way of life. Protecting their hometowns. Protecting complete strangers. It's true, we at home are not coping with the sort of chaos of a Fallujah. We can only imagine the horror that our soldiers and the civilians caught in the middle are facing. And each of us is responsible, in some way, for their deaths, because we fund the war machine, we elect the politicians who make the decisions, we send them off, and we are the reason they fight. So it's only fitting, I think, to take a moment to remember them, and to bury them with all due honour. I wish we were in a position where no more young men and women had to die. We're not, and we're not going to be for some time, so I just hope that they are given every support needed to come home safely. And even though I hate this war and in the broader view I'm not sure if this is all worth these lives, I also know that things happen, every moment, every choice, that make differences in the world, so that these deaths are not in vain. But I hope we get to a point where Iraq is stable and safe again and there will be fewer corteges bringing everything to a halt. I appreciate that we can at least safely bury our dead, whereas there are many places where families lose loved ones and cannot even be sure of paying final respects without more loss of life. So sad.

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