When Marana Mountain View grad Samantha "Sam" Huff was killed in Iraq a couple weeks ago, I found myself about as angry as I've been in a long, long time. Certainly, I was angry at the senseless loss of a life so full of promise and one that was, in relative terms, just getting underway. But as I thought about her death and the circumstances that led to it, I was enraged at the corner we've allowed ourselves to be painted into, one of national self-delusion, widespread indifference and mass attention-span deficit.
I found myself staring at the smiling face in the obituary. It was a face full of life, of hope, of possibility. Just a year ago, she was probably in the afterglow of prom night, having worn the dress and survived the shoes.
Graduation was a week or two off, the giddiness building in having completed a long journey, one that would serve as a foundation for that which would follow.
And now she's in the ground.
As I read the obituary, I suddenly realized who she was. Her older half-sister, Tara, had gone to school with my daughter and had been in my wife's Girl Scout troop for several years before drifting away in middle school, as kids do. Her half-brother, Sean, had ridden his bike through our neighborhood.
I realized that I had to have crossed paths with this Sam kid a few times. Certainly I had to have seen her when she was the drum major for the Mountain View band when my son was playing football for Amphi against the Mountain Lions. That made me feel even worse.
In my mind, we're at a national low point. We got lied into a war that was unnecessary and is, to this day, still largely unsuccessful. And none of the Big Liars have suffered any consequences for their actions. Instead, our young people keep on dying so that the liars can keep on lying. I have no doubt that she served with honor and distinction, which you certainly can't say for those old men in Washington who are responsible for her having been in Iraq.
And you can't even criticize, for to do so is seen as belittling the effort being put forth by those in harm's way and besmirching the ultimate sacrifice being made by people like Sam Huff.
Today, we're living through the worst of two different worlds. Somehow, we've reached a point where we're fighting a war that a majority of Americans believe is wrong yet a plurality of Americans voted to continue. We're doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons and apparently have neither the will nor the inclination to do anything about it.
We've become a nation of people not unlike the Richard Pryor junkie who pleads with the elderly wino to "tell me some of those old lies of yours so I can stop thinkin' about the truth." We've been played by the Rumsfelds and the Cheneys who are old enough to know that all you have to do is wait Americans out, and they'll get bored and turn their attention to the next set of pretty lights off in the distance.
We've done the great national shrug. When we hear on the news that 35 Iraqis and a couple Americans were killed in a bomb blast, at most, we say, "Wow, that's not bad. Yesterday, it was 50 and six." And even when it hits close to home, we say, "Oh, that poor young girl. What's on Channel 11?"
Many even buy into the nonsense of "better them than us." Why can't America take the high road and have it be neither them nor us? Why couldn't we just fight the limited number of bad guys without scorching the Earth in a pathetic display of misplaced national machismo? Why did Sam Huff have to die so that we can continue to try to pound the square peg of democracy into the round hole of Islamic dictatorship?
And I'm part of the problem. I have to admit that when I get an e-mail about an upcoming anti-war rally, I envision a bunch of people who all look like Levon Helm, parading around with some placards, so I don't go to join in. I just sit here banging on the keyboard, not even bothering to write my senators because John McCain has that warrior mentality, and Jon Kyl simply doesn't know any better.
There's an old logic problem that asks how far one can wander into a forest. The answer is halfway, because, after that, you're on the way back out. I sure that we, as a nation, have reached the halfway point, because we can't afford to wander very much longer. When those towers fell, we all knew that we had to do something. But most of us now know that this wasn't it. We're not stronger; we're not safer; we're certainly not more righteous.
We have to regain our national focus and soul and honor. We have to stop shuffling along to the Big Lie. And, most of all, we have to stop sending our Sam Huffs off to die.