Carry Me Home

Atrios had this.

Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag — greeted by a color guard.

But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners — stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.

John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they found out the body of their only child, Matthew, who died in Iraq last month, would be arriving at Lindbergh Field as freight.

“When someone dies in combat, they need to give them due respect they deserve for (the) sacrifice they made,” said John Holley.

In comments, Ntodd said something that I can’t disagree with:

I take the point John was making over at Americablog that if Clinton did it, there’d be hue and cry and impeachment hearings, but really, what is the government supposed to do from a practical POV? Give ’em the deserved honors when they get home, support the family, but no special treatment on the airplane is going to make them any less dead or less honored.

He’s right. This is the wrong end of things to care about. We should have honored our troops by not killing them for a lie, we should have honored our troops by bringing them home and imprisoning the murdering bastards who did this to them and to us and to the Iraqis and to the world. To wax sentimental over the manner of their return while ignoring the manner of their needless deaths is criminal.

And yet. And yet. It’s not nothing, how they come home, to their families, and whatever injuries we all suffered because of the lies of this administration, it’s the families of the dead who suffered most. When the fall is all that’s left … When all you have of the child you birthed is the journey home, the child you love … I don’t have children, but I have a mother, and I swear to God she thinks her children should be carried on the shoulders of everybody just because they woke up breathing today, that’s how she loves us, like that. If all that was left to fight for was the way we came home, well, that’s what would matter, because that’s love, you love until it’s gone and then you love what’s left, a body in a box in the belly of a plane. And when that’s gone you love a patch of grass with a stone, and plant flowers there.

And there’s all the political arguments to be made, too: all the money we waste on stupid shit, all the time we spent debating freedom fries and French wine compared with the care given here. How much more could it possibly cost? These senators could charter a plane for every soldier for what they spend on lunches for Halliburton lobbyists, so don’t tell me expenses, don’t tell me time and care could not be taken, don’t tell me this is the best we could do. There’s the hypocrisy, as well: we will cover ourselves in ribbons, but not our dead.

I took anthropology classes in college: the Neanderthals buried their dead with care, and we were taught that that was a sign of their humanity, that they laid each other gently down. There are things you do that tell people who you are, as a country, as human beings. We cannot bring the dead back to life. We cannot, it seems, find a way out of this war. The fall is all that’s left. So it matters a great deal.

A.