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The Conscience of the King

By
September 27, 2005

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My husband and I have elected only at the last minute to make the long drive from our home in Houston to Crawford. We are headed to the last days of Camp Casey—the ditch and its attendant tented location outside President Bush’s vacation home where Cindy Sheehan, publicly requesting a meeting to discuss her son’s death while a soldier in Iraq, has stationed herself. Like much of the country, we’d been watching the strangely intimate conversation Cindy Sheehan and the president were having through the media, and we suddenly decided—a few days before the campsite was scheduled to be dismantled with the list of (by now rhetorical) questions to be taken on the road by bus tour—that we were curious to see this phenomenon for ourselves. We drive into the heat and race through the countryside, the industry of the region reinforced by a symbiosis of cattle ranchers, cattle-feed sellers, fence makers and menders.

We keep seeing, as we get closer to Crawford, concatenations of blue and white signs on stretches of fence alongside ranches, all with the odd, personalized-license-plate-evoking “IM4W,” so graphically simple and seemingly unsolicited that it takes me a moment to parse it as support for George Bush—posted in the face of arriving bands of people from around the country (and the world) who carry and are motivated by exactly the opposite message. “Cindy doesn’t speak for me” is another assertion we see along the otherwise deserted and parched roadsides, as if the world is suddenly so confusing that everyone has to signal exactly what they don’t stand for instead of what they do. Such is the discourse Cindy Sheehan’s mission has sparked, a standoff between static placards on the sides of dusty, desolate stretches of country back road: a dialogue that we see almost exclusively one side of on our drive, the pro-Bush supporters planting posters more frequently and increasingly bigger, as we draw close to Camp Casey itself.

We first arrive at a place in Crawford on the main road called “Peace House”—home to its own roadside sign that asks, “What’s the Noble Cause?” and apparent organizer of all things Camp Casey: there are shuttles to and from the campsite, and tents, and people who look very unlike they live in Crawford, Texas, sitting around talking about politics. Ready to see the camp itself, we follow a hand-drawn map, which has the two camps and the president’s ranch each designated by a single star, to “Camp Casey II.” The ditch is Camp Casey I, the original. The first view we have as we drive toward the otherwise deserted field donated temporarily to Cindy Sheehan is a huge white tent, the kind used for enormous outdoor wedding receptions or even circuses, gigantic poles suspending its heavy, glossy-white material at regular intervals. With Central Texas extending away from it indefinitely, the beaming white tent comes across as an engineering phenomenon, something from a World’s Fair or Epcot Center. We have to park quite a distance away and walk because there are many cars already parked there, lining the road, with license plates from California, Washington, Massachusetts and so on. Groups of people have arrived and camped here with Cindy for weeks.

As we approach the site, we see a field of small white crosses, each about a foot high with the name of a deceased soldier or Marine written in black block letters across it. I have read about the display, but the effect of rows and rows of markers, like a poor man’s Arlington, is still a surprisingly physical one. They take up so much space, and they’re only tiny crosses, spaced as if marking tiny, doll-like bodies. There are people milling around in front of the markers, one a middle-aged woman being interviewed by a German camera crew.

We walk into the tent and before a small stage, see many rows of chairs, about half of them full of people. Farther back are tables taken up by the remnants of the media and documentarians, as well as longer tables with food and drink. The mood in the tent is strange in a way that’s hard to put a finger on. It’s cooler under the shade of the giant tent, by far, and the sun is starting to sink as well, taking another degree or two off the triple-digit temperatures. The light inside is diffused by the tent’s translucent fabric, softening it to drowsy effect, and there is a woman on the stage playing folk songs on a guitar, her voice sounding a bit lost in the broad space surrounded on all sides by open fields. The vibe is subdued, and I ask someone passing by how many people were there the day before, when Martin Sheen, Joan Baez and Reverend Al Sharpton made appearances. A member of one of the documentary camera crews, waiting to depart with the bus tour the next day, tells me she’s heard a couple of thousand. It strikes me that the ambience in the tent feels a little like some absurd imagined afterlife—men, women and children milling around, the large bales of hay in the distance appearing conspicuously bucolic, everyone seeming like people waiting, not impatiently, for their turn at something particular and glorious.

I walk toward a table of cookies and find myself suddenly in the middle of a conversation between a delicate-looking young man—about nineteen, wearing an orange t-shirt, jeans, a large, shiny belt-buckle, a worn baseball hat, and the beginnings of a mustache—and a young dark-haired woman also in jeans, sporting a pin that reads, “Iraq Veterans for Peace.” The woman is listening to the boy very attentively.

“As you’re leaving, you’re like, Lord help you, you don’t want to kill nobody, but you do what you gotta do. It’s hard to understand why innocent people have to die—but you gotta take care of your own,” he tells her. Standing and listening to him, I come to understand he is a self-described “airman” recently returned from Iraq. He seems jumpy and apologetic. And very, very young. More people come to listen to his descriptions of his time in Iraq. He evokes a scrawny, youthful Ancient Mariner, telling the same anecdotes to those newly arrived to the conversation. “It’s good to be able to talk about this,” he says to no one in particular.

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A tall, fit, thirtyish-year-old man, dressed in fatigues, with a self-possessed demeanor, joins our small group. “I wanted to come over to shake your hand,” he says to the boy. He explains that he is a Marine who had also been stationed in Iraq, just returned last year. “You know what it’s like,” the Marine says to the boy.

The middle-aged woman who had been speaking to the German camera crew comes over. She’s plump, and kind-looking with curly hair and dark circles under her eyes. He puts his arm around her. “Oh, here’s one of my adopted mothers,” he says. “She just lost her son last year.” He adds, “Gone on. He’s in heaven,” the phrases sounding not like platitudes, but like tender locating coordinates, geographic terms. He and the boy fall into a conversation as the few of us stand around the table listening. “We got all kinds under this tent,” the Marine gestures around. “Christians, Jews, you name it. I’m just glad you’re speaking out too. I just wanted to come over here and shake your hand.”

The boy seems edgy but solicitous of the attention: “It’s like I’m a celebrity,” he says to the Marine, but loud enough for anyone listening. “People wanting to film me and stuff. It’s like I never imagined anyone would want to hear what I have to say.”

The Marine comments, “If we would have gotten them clean, running water, food, security, they would have helped us, instead of the insurgency. Instead, look what we’ve done to them. Look what we’re doing.” Someone mentions the contention that people say America has to finish what it started. “What’s the first thing you need to do when you find yourself in a hole?” he asks, then answers himself. “Stop digging.”

“Trade the green helmet for a blue one,” he continues, “is what a lot of us were saying over there, with the UN. But we basically gave the finger to the UN. But if we would say we’re withdrawing troops, demilitarize, we would have every country in the world willing to help us stabilize the region. For their own sake. You’re inciting people over there who wouldn’t normally pick up arms—you got the best recruiting poster for al Qaeda they could’ve asked for in a million years. And they’re never gonna stop.”

When the conversation turns specific and personal, the rest of us drift away to let the man and boy keep talking. The folk singer has finished playing and there are announcements shouted to the crowd that shuttles are leaving for Camp Casey I for a sunset vigil. We wander around and speak to some of the other people gathered there, young parents like us, older mothers, a man who has implausibly carried here on his motorcycle a large painting he’s made to honor the troops, many self-proclaimed ex-hippies, and a few more military types who tell me they’re glad that maybe a dialogue has been started about what they were sent to Iraq to do and why, about what’s actually happening over there, whether their going was justified at all. What’s unsaid is that this dialogue can also contain a silent aspersion about what they were asked to do, about what they’ve already done. I get the sense that some of them want forgiveness and that some of them want answers. All of them seem intent that no other troops should have to make the decisions they’ve had to make, or die or kill for the faulty choices of someone else.

The sunset vigil is held at Camp Casey I, a designated point where three roads converge near the president’s ranch. This was where Cindy had first put a small tent before she was told to move into the adjacent ditch. It’s no hyperbole; it truly is a ditch. Not a place anyone would want to spend more than a few minutes, let alone settle in for a long residence. It’s a Central Texas ditch: hot and itchy, full of brambles and burrs and fire ants and snakes. The self-proclaimed pro-war protestors have set up a line of umbrellas and folding chairs just across the small patch of grass in the middle of the triangle that holds a couple of local police officers, deterrents to anyone on either side who might decide to make trouble. We’re standing with the mothers, all readying to light candles by the names of their sons who have died, when a large black pick-up truck heads toward us. The man driving wears a black cowboy hat and the stereo in his truck is playing Elvis at a rowdy volume. “Whatever you do, stay offa my blue suede shoes,” the man sings with Elvis, his arm and head hanging out his window, staring pointedly at us as his truck slowly crawls by. “Oh, it’s the guy in the black truck,” says an older man who has just walked up. “Again.”

When engaged in the act of protest, she can feel her son’s presence.

The six or so permanent pro-Bush protestors are just across the way, their line of chairs maybe twenty feet from the Camp Casey side, strangely close, especially in light of the vast stretches of land extending away from us in all directions. On the late-night drive that will get us home just before our young son wakes up at my mother’s house, I ask my husband what the Bush supporters had seemed like when he strolled over there, calmly perusing their signs and messages. “Bored,” he says.

Our trip to Crawford is the week before Katrina, although I don’t think of it that way yet. Two days after the hurricane makes landfall, Cindy Sheehan is scheduled to make an appearance in Houston, and I decide to see her speak. The parking lot of the church where she is appearing is filled to capacity, which surprises me, since so much else is going on and it is midweek and it is Houston. The people going in represent the usual assortment of protest warriors, but there are also many young professionals arriving in couples, parents with kids, women about my mom’s age—young grandmas, I call them. Inside, when Cindy stands up to speak, I realize she’d been standing very near to me, unnoticed, while her introductions were being made, and I note that she looks more or less like “a mom,” albeit a plain and slightly granola-y one—with a Peace t-shirt, hemmed blue-jean shorts to her knees, and sandals. She starts out by mentioning the hurricane damage that is on everyone’s mind. “It’s a terrible thing,” she says, “we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to support the people in the Gulf states, especially of New Orleans.” Someone in the crowd shouts out, “Bring the National Guard home!” to great applause. “Absolutely,” she continues, nodding. “We thought about even stopping the bus tour, but then we thought, you know what the best use of our resources right now would be, to go around the country like we are and just saying not only is this president failing us in Iraq, but he’s failing us here in America,” to more loud applause and cheers.

I’m surprised at how calm and unshrill she sounds. The times I had seen her on television, she had always struck me as a little too strident in tone, not careful enough with her thoughts, less easy to sympathize with as her demands were borne higher and higher on the already well-worn standards of protest rhetoric and repeated again and again via too many media outlets. She continues speaking to the crowd in the church, “We know so many brave and honorable National Guard troops, I know families of National Guard troops who have been killed in Iraq, and they say that they felt so strongly after 9/11 about protecting America that they wanted to enlist in the National Guard to protect the nation and then they were betrayed and sent off to Iraq, and when there is a national emergency, they’re not here to do what they signed up to do.” She pauses and asks in a low, sad voice, “Just how long are we going to be willing to let this man continue to ruin this country? How many more lives are we going to let him devastate before we say enough is enough? Well, I had enough on August 3 and that’s why I went to Crawford on August 5.” Everyone claps so loud and so long at this that I start counting seconds. Eighteen. Toward the end of her speech, speaking specifically about Casey’s dying, Cindy Sheehan says, “When George Bush was elected, well, ‘selected,’ in 2000, you know what? I had the most ironic thought in my entire life, I thought, Cindy, what can he do in four years?”

I leave the church with an impression of Cindy Sheehan as a mother first and a war protestor second. Certainly she’s not everyone’s cup of tea; she’s opinionated, and she’s driven by her politics, which are, in turn, driven by her experience of her government. She comes off as a woman who misses her son terribly, who is trying to find something worthwhile in what she sees as her son’s worthless death. Someone who wants accountability for decisions her elected officials have made that have affected her, and others like her, in irrevocable and devastating ways. It also becomes apparent to me, as she is receiving American flags a Vietnam veteran has brought to her from a memorial to Casey, the primary reason why she’s doing what she’s doing, why she went to Crawford with her grief in the first place. Surely it’s a partly clunky spectacle to make her point, something akin to Hamlet’s hope on his own search for accountability: the play’s the thing/wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king. But it’s also something more psychological, more instinctive: when engaged in the act of protest, she can feel her son’s presence—whatever that means to her—she feels him when she is fighting against what she views as the uselessness, the criminal negligence that led to his death. These actions allay her grief because she feels useful; she feels she can stop other mothers from feeling this way. It makes her son seem less dead. And, as a mother myself, I can’t begrudge her that.

The message illustrates a curious unwillingness to consider that a mother’s grief could be prescriptive, and guard against future damage to other people’s children.

Many of the people I encountered who are most attracted by Cindy’s call to arms seem to have a history of being drawn to objectors, seem inspired by the idea of someone organizing their anger, focusing and embodying their range of objections to the leaders at hand. Then there are those that are simply anti-Bush. But many others seem drawn to what she’s saying, reluctantly or surprisingly, moved by a connection to her primary grievance that this war was not worth the price—not worth the lives of other people’s children, or for that matter, the lives of their own children—whether or not they agree with everything else she has to say about the broader political situation. And after listening to Cindy Sheehan and the other mothers who have lost their sons and daughters in Iraq, it’s hard not to notice what a conspicuous vacuum of official concern these women seem to be speaking into, what a lack of public American recognition, a silence of elected officials, what a turning away there seems to be from the suffering of those who have gone to fight in this war and of the families left behind by those who never return.

As I leave the church, there are five people across the wide boulevard congregated in polite protest against Cindy’s dissent. One is a mother with her two young daughters beside her. One of the little girls, who looks to be about nine, holds up a hand-lettered sign that says, “Hey Cindy. Stop Crying. Start Helping.” The message illustrates a curious unwillingness to consider that a mother’s grief could be prescriptive, could investigate and guard against future damage to other people’s children, and, in effect, against future damage to a country itself—a country sinking deeper and deeper into a tactical and political quagmire thousands of miles away, not to mention less able to take care of its citizens at home. And it reminds me of something said by the Marine under the tent at Camp Casey II, “You know, she might be too dead set in her ways,” he had told us calmly about Sheehan, “but it seems like we have the same ideas as the people on the other side of the ditch. United we stand. Divided we fall. They don’t seem to get the divided part.”

——

Once the water starts pouring into New Orleans, we watch from Houston as the city drowns and the entire Gulf Coast reels from the effects of both the hurricane and, increasingly, the delayed and ineffectual government response. There is a particularly keen and palpable sorrow coursing through Houston about these places and communities that are very near to us both geographically and psychologically. Everyone here knows someone in New Orleans; my father was a child in New Orleans, and I’m sad about what’s happening there in ways I can’t quite understand and that I feel guilty and selfish about. I’m only losing an idea, a place in the world that had comforted me merely by its existence, and I’m losing the last bit of faith in my country’s current government, which I realize had been bigger than I knew now that it’s gone. As people flee into Houston and tell of what’s happening there, of the bodies floating past, we begin to realize that the worst is yet to come, and I see and speak to people around the city who were lucky enough to get out in time, separated from the rest of their families, recognizing their ruined homes on the news reports. So I feel it’s not permissible to feel sad about any of it for myself in the face of so much real, life-taking disaster. I’ve not lost my child, my husband, my home.

Experts comment on the increasingly desperate situation and blame the circus of death and suffering on the lack of preparation in shoring up the levees, fortifying homes and repairing barrier islands; the lack of an efficient evacuation of those unable to get out on their own; the lack of preparation for flooding and displacement—singling out the Bush administration’s evisceration of FEMA and the war in Iraq for the lack of supplies, personnel, equipment and organization. There is blame to share among local and state authorities, but, according to the Department of Homeland Security itself, it’s the federal government, most of all, that should be doing what it’s not: “In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1 for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.”

I see reports that a Canadian rescue team has arrived from Vancouver and saved hundreds of people in St. Bernard’s Parish in what will be five days before any official American response team shows up. Private citizens commandeer boats and, of their own volition, rescue people in vast sections of the completely submerged Ninth Ward—where the exhausted citizens themselves are the only rescue teams anyone sees for days on end, turning off the motors of their flatboats to drift quietly in the fetid water and listen for the sounds of people trapped in their homes, calling out for help, water up to their necks in the dark. People drown in their attics, unable to chop themselves out; slip from their roofs, unable to hold on against the water and the exhaustion. First-hand accounts in the New Orleans Times-Picayune highlight just how many stories will never be told at all, the tellers in the poorest parts of town taken without their chance to speak: “Lucrece Phillips’ sleepless nights are filled with the images of dead babies and women… Phillips’ downstairs neighbor, Terrilyn Foy, 41, and her 5-year-old son, Trevor, were unable to escape. ‘I can still hear them banging on the ceiling for help,’ Phillips said, shaking. ‘I heard them banging and banging, but the water kept rising.’ Then the pleas for help were silenced by the sway of the current, she said.”

In the chaos of the disorganized or nonexistent rescue operations, people are being picked up from one location and left without assistance on overpasses and causeways, often for days without further help, a scene described in the New York Times as “barefoot women cradling naked, screaming babies.” I’m aghast and feel helpless in the face of all of the accounts of parents and children—some drowned, some separated first by the storm itself and then by the chaos of the limited and flailing rescue operations, some stranded at the Superdome or Convention Center with no food or water. Reuters reports that one National Guard soldier who “asked not to be named for fear of punishment from his commanding officer” says of the lack of medical attention at the Center, “We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but almost all of our guys are in Iraq.”

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People are still trapped in smaller outlying towns throughout the region and in New Orleans, where no one is allowed in and no one is allowed out while people wait for food and water with their children, and with the elderly and infirm, for days on end. The Red Cross reports that while FEMA is not getting anyone out or providing life-saving supplies itself, it’s also, perversely, not allowing any aid organizations in because the “Homeland Security Department had requested—and continues to request—that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.”

My husband, who is an emergency medicine doctor at a major hospital in Houston, is told he should expect patients to be transferred from the Gulf Coast. But day after day, they are unable to evacuate patients from the New Orleans hospitals that are running out of food and water, and doctors report from within of being reduced to draconian measures of triage to determine who might die first without help, quartering tiny packets of jelly for meals, pumping around the clock with hand ventilators to keep people breathing, stacking bodies in the inhuman heat of unlit stairwells. “Where is the National Guard?” a doctor at Charity Hospital asks angrily on the radio. No one at the federal level seems to have any idea what is going on, holding disturbing pep-rally-style press conferences that appear beamed from an unrelated place and time, some technical, chronological error in the feed.

At the Convention Center, desperate women hold up for the news cameras babies whose eyes are glassy with impending dehydration. I ask my husband what happens when babies get too dehydrated, how much they can take. Their heartbeat speeds up, he tells me, their circulation shuts down, their kidneys and other organs begin to fail, their brains shrivel. CNN reports on the conditions without enough food, water, or medical supplies, “We saw mothers holding babies, some of them just three, four and five months old, living in horrible conditions. Diapers littered the ground. Feces were on the ground. Sewage was spilled all around. These people are being forced to live like animals. When you look at the mothers, your heart just breaks.”

At least three of these babies will die from dehydration. At least three mothers will watch their children die in their arms while the rest of the country watches on television. Three mothers will experience their government allowing their children to die for lack of a bottle of drinking water. “In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need,” the president says on September 3, after thousands of people have been trapped at the Convention Center for five days.

“When Casey was a baby I would not have trusted George Bush to babysit him,” Cindy Sheehan had said in her remarks in Houston. “And then he became his commander-in-chief, you know, and that was disastrous.”

My husband and I volunteer at the Astrodome in the days following the arrival of tens of thousands of exhausted and shell-shocked evacuees from the Superdome. The Astrodome itself is a site of curious childhood memories for most children who grew up in Houston. It conjures memories of baseball games and the rodeo, a sense of technological wonder that the sheer size and (at the time) futuristic shape invited. Houston had certain aspects of glamour to a child in the seventies, if not confirmed by outside interpretation. We were home to NASA, after all, proudly bringing to cousins and friends in other places treats like dehydrated astronaut ice cream and Tang.

I feel a sad kind of pride, I suppose, at the role the Astrodome is playing now. It’s true that it looks like there is a sea made of people. You look and there are more of them and more of them and more of them, but mostly they are eerily quiet and stunned, following directions politely, staring into space more often than not. In the early hours and days after their arrival, they need simple items one doesn’t think to bring or loses along one’s journey through hell: socks, underwear, baby blankets, toothbrushes, tampons. They are literally like a huge town full of people chased out of their homes in the middle of the night, with just the clothes on their backs.

Because my husband is a doctor, we work the medical area. He sees patients and I become what is called a “runner.” “You look young and strong,” the volunteer coordinator tells me—neither of which I feel particularly—after she glances at me for about a nanosecond. Not very long after, I begin helping in the medical area, though, I do, in fact, feel both of those qualities in spades. I’m sent to a giant section of the Astrodome complex where volunteers sit at donated computers and gather information from the beleaguered would-be patients, and then hold medical folders straight up in the air for one of the runners to rush over and take, in order to escort each patient (and usually their entire family, reluctant to be parted ever again) through the giant labyrinth of divisions to the correct curtained off department and make sure they are checked in: Ob/Gyn, Triage, Isolation, Medicine, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Psychiatry, etc.

In the way that an indoor baseball field is an entire synthetic world that mimics the real thing, the medical complex is like an entire set of clinics settled indoors under a fabricated metal sky. Far on one side of the complex is a complete ophthalmology clinic in a giant mobile home with a picket-like fence around it, and when I escort a young boy and his grandmother to the eye lab for his injured eyes, I feel like I am taking them somewhere in the future, walking through an enclosed city on the moon or a hermetically-sealed community created after an apocalypse, after some calamity to the earth’s atmosphere. If Camp Casey’s giant white tent and lazy ramblings of well-meaning peaceniks had evoked the sense of a humdrum heaven—a necessarily imperfect one, limited by the fallibilities of human beings—the Astrodome, a place for those suffering infernal sadness, perhaps conjures a fluorescently-lit, air-conditioned hell made bearable by the very human offerings of hope and goodwill.

A young girl at the Astrodome named Tamara held my hand when I walked over to her. “I wanna come live with you,” she said.

During my time volunteering, I escort more people than I can count. But I remember all of them. As a person with clean clothes, my head up, an official-looking badge, I am also sought out at every moment by people who need to ask a question, to find something, to find someone. I am approached several times by police officers leading young mothers around the complex, young mothers with aged faces, holding pictures of a small child or several small children. “Have you seen these kids?” the officers ask me. I haven’t and won’t during my time there.

I keep thinking about the deep, long memories of mothers. I can’t help but think about the government’s failing of the mothers of New Orleans and of those left scattered and bereft with or without their children along the rest of the Gulf Coast. I think about Cindy Sheehan and the other mothers who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq because of the unacceptable choices made by the government. Marina Beyer, whose Marine son Erick James Hodges was killed in a bomb explosion in Falluja on his birthday, November 10, said, “He was 21 for a day.” The mothers demanding accountability even in the face of criticism that they should swallow their grief and ignore their reservations about the deaths, choose stubbornly to remind people instead, again and again, of the evidence that their children and other military personnel were and are sent into an unjustified conflict and continue to be asked to serve in an untenable military situation with no foreseeable exit. I think about Terrilyn Foy and her son, Trevor, banging on the ceiling of their house as the water from the never-funded broken levees rushed in and drowned them together. About the unnamed mother at the Convention Center, waiting in line for days for buses to finally get out, captured by news cameras as she passed her own two-month-old daughter from the back of the line in a panic, hand to hand across the top of the crowd, to strangers at the front who were about to board a bus to anywhere else, sending her baby away to an unknown destination to make sure her child would get out alive even if she didn’t.

I think about a young girl at the Astrodome named Tamara who held my hand immediately when I walked over to her and did not let go until I had to force myself to leave her so I could keep working, who told me her mother was gone when I stupidly asked. Went away in the water, she told me flatly. “I wanna come live with you,” she said, her grandfather smiling at me apologetically, thin and exhausted behind her. They had extended family to stay with until they found Tamara’s mother, he assured me. I pray her mother survived the flooding, and the lack of help and water and food, and made it out and finds a way back to her child. I hope this first and most for Tamara’s sake. I also pray for her mother to be alive so that she doesn’t have to return instead like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, alongside the rest of all of the wrongfully dead, haunting and goading those of us left living to act, to ask for accountability and guard against further grief. I hope she is alive to appear in flesh and blood and demand her own explanation for how so many could have been treated so poorly, considered so little. And I hope that she won’t have to camp out in a ditch to get it.

G

Hillery Hugg is a writer living in Houston. She was the 1996-1998 Michener Fellow in Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin and has recently completed an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. Her latest story is forthcoming in 3rd Bed.

Images courtesy NASA.

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