Friday, 22 June 2012 00:00
A woman fighting the fires of war on three continents, as a foreign war correspondent, is who she was and what she did. Marie Colvin – a Long Island native and Oyster Bay High School graduate – had been the targeted victim of Syrian despot Bashar Assad’s artillery. Colvin’s days of wake and funeral were spent celebrating her heroic life.
At the end, as family returned to their vehicles, I thrust my hand through an open window where Rosemarie, her mother, was sitting. I held her hand and said, “Thank you,” all the while musing about the fruit that doesn’t drop far from the tree. And what the priest had said about the potato.
“You never know what language you will hear when you walk in the door [of the family home],” he said,” but you always know you will be received as family.” He told the story of the family being served pizza, and their grandmother giving everyone a potato because in an Irish home, no meal was complete without a potato.
So I left it at that, a simple thank you, turned and walked away. On a nearby embankment, cameras held high capturing the scene for folks around the world, journalists from near and far were doing their best for a slain fellow journalist for whom her best was never enough.
For Marie Colvin, a self-taxing writer, bringing to life “in the deepest way she could” the truths of war, especially from the perspective of ordinary people, particularly women and children, is what was of utmost importance.
I thought of Oyster Bay’s “Rough Rider” Teddy Roosevelt who years earlier had left his footprint on this Long Island village of much history. Now there is Marie Colvin’s footprint. She another “Rough Rider” but of different sort, as she fought the fires of war.
I thought it interesting that while Roosevelt died (in his sleep) at age 60, Marie Colvin died (was slain) at age 56. And that just down the street from the church is where Roosevelt had his “ Little White House” at a corner eatery-hotel whenever not in Washington to be with his family at Sagamore Hill, his Oyster Bay home. I thought it worthwhile recalling, that he’d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having brokered peace between Russia and Japan.
On that morning I’d been standing at a crossroads in history. It was not my first time. Once again now history was speaking to me. In the most compelling of ways ever. On the side of innocent victims of conflict and war. For 40 years I’d been immersed in the hidden horrors, the hidden sins, of war. There I learned the courage it takes to be a girl, a woman, in this world where we humans are still struggling to “make sense” of life itself and the world that is our planetary habitat.
It is why I’ve made their lives the work of my life. And why I intend to propose that Marie Colvin, like Roosevelt, be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
But it should not, shall not, stop there.
While it may very well seem that history is on the side of conflict and war, it is not. Our earth, bursting now with the dead bodies of war, says otherwise. Their bodies, though dead, are very much alive in our collective consciousness. So, very slowly, we’ve come to see that war, like slavery, has been a habit.
It may surprise some to know that in Massachusetts, during the post Civil War period, and despite Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, there were some 2,000 slaves. Why? Because slavery had become a habit. Not until the Quakers called for an abolition of slavery did the practice cease.
The same with war. More than a habit, it’s been a racket. “Beware the military-industrial complex,” warned President Eisenhower during his Farewell Address to our nation. Beware the munitions industry. Coming as it did from he who’d been commander-in-chief of allied forces during World War II, and now our retiring president, this had been a warning of kind hugely revealing about the racket aspects of war.
My base is “Welcome Mary House” Peace Abbey in Westbury, from where, in dedicated fashion, the realization of a sane world has been a decades-long dream. I am an intuitive person, not analytic. Intuition works best for me. We live in a world where, together, all of us are prisoners of war so long as this racket is allowed to exist. Colvin saw the truth and thus the need to abolish war by ridding ourselves of its habit.
One recalls her having sailed all her life, like a bird in flight, having grown up sailing on Oyster Bay. One recalls her coming home from far-flung war fronts, to play, to have fun. But most of all we recall how she spoke for the innocents caught up in the cross hairs of war and proclaimed truth to the world.
She ran to what others ran from. If someone was fighting, she had to go there. She’d been the first to come and the last to leave, such was her caring concern for the women and children who had to pick up the mess left by men.
But there’d been one thought in particular that begged attention on that day of the funeral. This cannot, must not, be just another story, another item for prime-time news. Why? Because it’s only the beginning of the real story.
This intrepid reporter, so completely in command of her craft, had been on a mission: To make obsolete the racket that is war by revealing its truth; thus to free all girls and women from the hidden horrors, the hidden sins, of war.