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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

October 11, 2004
Vol. 2, No. 25

 


 
 
 


 

Pat MarrinExhibit opens eyes, recalls vision of bones rising

 
By Pat Marrin

"This generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah."-- Luke 11:29

Prophets look both ways. Biblical prophets are charged with looking back and preserving the foundational values of life in God, but they also assess the present situation in the light of those values, then project the lines of accountability into the future. When a prophet speaks, past and future resonate and we are challenged to listen and act. If there is no change in direction, disaster awaits us.

"Eyes Wide Open," an event of disturbing, prophetic power is now in Kansas City area as part of a national tour. The outdoor exhibit consists of rows of military boots representing the more than 1,070 U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Each boot is tagged with the name, age and home state of one of these casualties. Surrounding the ranks of boots are scattered thousands of civilian shoes to represent the estimated 16,000 men, women and children who have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.

Local event organizer Mary Vincent walked among the boots and shoes she and volunteers had arranged on the long green lawn of Peace Park in Midtown Kansas City.

The prophet recalled
Eyes Wide Open, an outdoor exhibit consists of rows of military boots representing the more than 1,070 U.S. military deaths in Iraq. I stand looking down the rows and think of the Prophet Ezekiel's vision of dry bones rising up, joint, sinew and flesh reconstituting the multitudes lost in the Babylonian exile. My mind is stirred to see a thousand young soldiers before me, shocked to be alive again, surrounded by a sea of Iraqi civilians, their companions in death. This crowd is crying out.
"For every pair of shoes," she said, "imagine a circle of at least 50 other people directly related to this death -- parents, siblings, family, friends -- and you begin to get a sense of the real cost of this war."

Many monuments to the dead are abstract enough to protect our sensibilities from the reality that those 50 survivors of each death cannot escape. The question that surely inhabits their waking hours and weighs down their dreams like a stone in free fall is always the same from every war: Why did all these people die? Why are they not among us? Who decided this was necessary?

As memorials, these shoes, from the shiny black boots to a tiny pair of children's sandals, conjure up strong images. I stand looking down the rows and think of the Prophet Ezekiel's vision of dry bones rising up, joint, sinew and flesh reconstituting the multitudes lost in the Babylonian exile. My mind is stirred to see a thousand young soldiers before me, shocked to be alive again, surrounded by a sea of Iraqi civilians, their companions in death. This crowd, brought back to life, is crying out, embracing one another, as jubilant as any second coming could be

Also by Pat Marrin
Aug. 9 Time and Again
June 14 Reagan: a more critical subtext needed
Apr. 6 Gray water and an armload of soiled towels
Apr. 5 Recovering Christianity's core drama
Feb. 6 When a local church is decapitated
Feb. 5 The Good News meets the daily news
Feb. 3 The sacrament of touch
This is the prophetic vision and voice we are meant to hear now, demanding to know: What system, what ideology, what motive brought these ordinary human beings together in time and place with such a violent outcome? Who is responsible for this deadly collision of values, cultures, interests?

In 1967, one year before his own assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, connected his prophetic leadership of the Civil Right's movement to his opposition to the war in Vietnam. "I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent." This was early in the war, long before U.S. deaths rose to 54,000 combat deaths and the estimated 2 million to 3 million Vietnamese killed.

Read More
For a related story, read A soldier's remorse by Claire Schaffer-Duffy.
One predictable but nonetheless disturbing fact about prophetic events and voices, then and now, is that so few people pay attention. We will look back some day and conclude that broad public participation might have made a difference.

"Eyes Wide Open" is drawing small crowds and scant interest from local media. Does it still seem too remote, too small a war? Are we in denial about its potential to draw us into broader regional conflict, a protracted and unpredictable war based on race and religion that could disrupt every global network we now rely on to live in this world?

Without a change in national policy, the circle of death will widen exponentially. When it touches more of us personally, perhaps then we will protest. If only we could anticipate that need now, activate our efforts on behalf of others, pay attention before we find ourselves and our loved ones in their shoes.


Pat Marrin's e-mail addres is patmarrin@aol.com. Celebration, NCR's sister publication, is an ecumenical worship resource. For a preview, follow this link: Celebration.
 
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