Alice Kesner’s “The Peace Vigil”

6830081_550x550_mb_art_r0I’m not sure what to think about ending up as a minor character in a short story, except to say that I’m honored. Alice Kesner posted “The Peace Vigil” at Political Affairs magazine (tag line “Marxist Thought Online”).  I think she makes a good effort at crafting the “stuff” of life into the art of life–carving away what’s less important, so that the essential tensions and beauties stand out. Thanks, Alice! Here’s an excerpt:

Dusk, in the living room of a rambling, country-style house in Texas, where three women and two men are about to mark an important occasion. It’s the second anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, and while in urban places people are commemorating the day with antiwar marches and demonstrations, in this small Hill Country town these five folks are about to hold a peace vigil. …

At this moment, Bruce, who reclines at the other end of the sofa, waves some sheets of paper in the air. “Folks, I’ve got me some copies here of a humdinger responsorial by a Rose Marie Berger, hot off the Internet.” Bruce, who owns a thirty-acre pecan ranch, is slim, loose-jowled and rugged in blue jeans, sports jacket and the cowboy hat he always wears, even indoors. A friend of Mary’s from school days, and for a brief period a long time ago her lover, he finds himself, now twice divorced, drifting back into Mary’s emotional orbit.

Read Alice Kesner’s whole story here. If you want to read the litany she references,  see below.

Second Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
A Responsorial
By Rose Marie Berger

Introduction:
Since March 19, 2003, more than 1,400 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Almost half of those deaths occurred since July 1st, 2004, following the U.S. “transfer of power” to Iraqi control.

This number does not include the number of U.S. soldiers who have died by suicide after returning home. Nor does it include the more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers wounded. It doesn’t reflect the number of U.S. soldiers killed elsewhere in the world—particularly in Afghanistan.

Also, it would be wrong of us, as members of a universal body of Christ, to focus only on American deaths. We hold up the tens of thousands of Iraqis who died under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; those who died during the first Persian Gulf war; those who died as a result of the U.N. sanctions, and those civilians who have died during the second Gulf war.

It is our duty as Christians to remember and to hold up the truth to the best of our ability. Tonight we honor our American dead. Most of them were in their 20s. And we, as a people and as a country are diminished by their deaths.

We also honor the peacemakers who work to end this war, especially those in Iraq. Tonight, in this short liturgy, you will hear names and stories of both soldiers and nonviolent activists in Iraq.

Litany:
[Voice One]

July 1, 2004:
Sgt. Christopher A. Wagener; age 24; from Fairview Heights, IL; killed when his convoy hit a land mine
Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr.; age 23; from Orlando, FL; died from injuries received during enemy action
Lance Cpl. Timothy R. Creager; age 21 from Millington, TN; died in hostile action
Staff Sgt. Stephen G. Martin; age 39 from Rhinelander, WI; died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC from injuries sustained the previous week in a car bomb explosion

[Voice Two]

“There is a gap in my memory,” wrote Christian Peacemaker Team member Greg Rollins from Baghdad the week that the thousandth U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq, “that feels like it is a year, but is less than a second long.  At one end is the thought, ‘When will David and Mabel get here’ at the other is ‘What was that explosion?’ The explosion on September 1, 2004, shook me, made my ears ring and made time unstable. I turned around and twenty meters away a wall of dust enveloped the street. The dust dispersed quickly. In the middle of the road where someone had placed the explosive device, the concrete median had been blown to pieces. The next thing that I noticed was that the explosion left everyone around me dazed—children and adults alike. You could see it on their faces and in their body language. They slowly shuffled away from the blast sight while they constantly looked back. People yelled at each other, to each other and through each other. Others said nothing but stared. Somewhere behind all this, two Iraqi men ran, carrying a wounded third.”

[Voice One]

August 1, 2004:
Spc. Anthony J. Dixon; age 20; from Lindenwold, NJ; died when an improvised bomb exploded near his guard post
Spc. Armando Hernandez; age 22; from Hesperia, CA; died when an improvised bomb exploded near his guard post
September 1, 2004:
Specialist Joseph C. Thibodeaux III; age 24; from Lafayette, LA; killed by a sniper

[Voice Two]

“Not far past the blast was a stopped car. Its back window was blown in and the back bumper blown off. The two men inside climbed out in unsteady shock. The passenger stumbled away while the driver stood and looked back and forth between his car and the U.S. soldiers a block away.  The driver put his hands on his head as if he expected the soldiers to arrest him, then he put his hands down and shuffled off the road. I watched all this shock around me through my own shock. Time sped up and slowed down. The light was too bright and people moved too fast. I saw young boys walk up to the broken median for a closer look, and I watched a middle-aged Iraqi man crying as his friend led him by the arm down the street.”

[Voice One]

October 1, 2004:
Sgt. Michael A. Uvanni; age 27; from Rome, NY; shot by a sniper
Sgt. Jack T. Hennessy; age 21; from Naperville, IL; killed in small arms fire at his checkpoint
November 3, 2004:
Sgt. Charles J. Webb; age 22; from Hamilton, OH; killed by an improvised bomb

[Voice Two]

“Those who stood further away when the blast happened were less shocked then others. A block away the U.S. soldiers slowly approached, their movements more cautious than stunned. I had noticed the soldiers before the blast but had thought nothing of them. One often sees patrols of U.S. soldiers parked at the side of the road. David Milne later learned from a soldier that an Iraqi told them about a suspicious person atop a dilapidated building ahead. The soldiers had called the Iraqi police to investigate but had not foreseen the explosive device.”

[Voice One]

December 1, 2004:
Spc. David M. Fisher; age 21; from Green Island, NY; died when his vehicle rolled over
Cpl Zachary A. Kolda; age 23; of Corpus Christi, TX; died in enemy action
Gunnery Sgt. Javier Obleas-Prado Pena; age 36; from Falls Church, VA; died in a hospital in Germany as a result of enemy action in Iraq several days earlier
Cpl. Bryan S. Wilson; age 22; from Otterbein, IN; died in a vehicle accident

[Voice Two]

“Many of us around the blast were lucky. The bomb was small. Few people sustained serious injuries but one person died. Those who did receive injuries were only a block and a half from a hospital.”

[Voice One]

January 1, 2005:
Spc. Jeff LeBrun; age 21; from Buffalo, NY; died when an improvised bomb struck his vehicle
Lance Cpl. Jason E. Smith; age 21; from Phoenix, AZ; died in hostile action
February 1, 2005:
Spc. Robert T. Hendrickson; age 24; from Broken Bow, OK; killed when his vehicle overturned

[Voice Two]

“My shock wore off with time,” recalls Greg Rollins, “as did the shock of the people and on the street. When I returned home, I tried to think back to the moment I heard the explosion but found only the gap in my memory. There is a gap in my memory that feels like a year, but is less than a second long.”

Amen.

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