This list keeps getting longer. Six from Louisville Kentucky. Three from Derby Kansas. Two from Bossier City Louisiana. Twelve from my old hometown and its suburbs. 191 from California. 1745 in all. By the time you read this, that number will almost certainly be higher.
And I have a few questions about the list.
How many mothers crumpled inside, hearing the news on the phone? How many fathers felt the stab in the gut, the cramp of grief in the back of the neck? How many pillowcases soaked with tears and snot?
How many warm Saturday afternoons with one less person around the grill? How many future miles not walked with dogs, future boxes of popcorn not fetched for daughters who went ahead to find seats before the movie starts?
How many hours spent falling into the hole in the center of your heart? How many hours spent wondering why your life is over so young, a widow at 23?
How many of the dead are not listed here?
I know the answers to some of these questions, but I find myself needing to ask them anyway. I know that some of the answers will be different for each name, but I need to ask them anyway. Did they make their peace with themselves? Did they suffer? Did they cry? Did they know what hit them? Were their last thoughts of their lovers? Their mothers? Their children?
Were they writers? Mechanics? Bakers? Students, teachers, dropouts, dyslexics, National Merit Finalists, gardeners, truck drivers, athletes, klutzes, saints or assholes?
Did they find grace and humanity in the people of Iraq? Did they cast their eyes on the battered landscape and still find beauty in it? Were they fearful? Did the terror sour into hatred, resentment?
Did they vote?
Would they vote differently now?
Did they know they were fighting for a lie?
Is there an American with a life worth more than any one of these? The President who lied with a straight face, or the advisors who coached him in the lies? The strutting, snide pundits? The snarling radio hosts? The propagandists and the preeners? The hooting cowards on their warblogs? The complacent? The spineless loyal opposition? The people on the list died in agony, many of them, in fear and anguish and remorse. When their time comes – and may that day be long off – are there any in the political class who deserve a death one mite more pleasant than the people on the list deserved?