National Day of Mourning

President Bush (love the man! …) has declared Tuesday (2-Jan-07) as a national day of mourning for the loss of a former international leader.

President Bush actually had former President Gerald L. Ford in mind, but I’m thinking about someone else. Though Ford’s death is sad, as is any death, is it really a cause for national mourning, much less a federal holiday? Ford was 93 years old, and died of natural causes. It’s not like it’s a shock to anyone that he died. He was old. That’s what old people do. He wasn’t assassinated. He wasn’t martyred. He died quietly, in the company of family. And, well, why the federal holiday? Ford was only president for all of two years (’74-’76), making him even less significant than most presidents. I dunno. I hate to think of how many million dollars of tax-funded productivity is being lost because, somehow, a three-day weekend wasn’t already long enough for us to come to terms with the death of a former President. It doesn’t make good economic sense. There wasn’t a national day of mourning when Simon Wiesenthal died last spring, and surely he did more for humanity than President Ford. There wasn’t a national day of mourning when Milton Friedman died in November, though he was probably far more influential (if less remembered) than President Ford.

There was, however, the death of another international figure. At 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, the 30th of December, 2006, Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi head of state, was hung at the gallows. He was hanged for ordering the killing of 148 Shiites in the city of Dujail in 1982. His final moments and death were broadcast on Iraqi national television.

This wasn’t a death of old age. This wasn’t a quiet, expected death, surrounded by friends and family. This was the public execution of an international figurehead, publicly broadcast in nation torn by hatred, violence and death. Following his death, a bomb was detonated in a Kufa fish market, killing 31 people and wounding 58 others. In northwest Baghdad, two cars exploded, killing 37 civilians (innocents) and wounding 76 more in the neighborhood. Iraq reports a total of 92 deaths around the country from bombings and death squads by the end of the day on Saturday. Most tragically, this number isn’t much higher than the average daily death toll since Saddam was removed as Iraq’s leader.

I’m not going to be so bold as to pass judgment on Saddam’s guilt or innocence, but his public execution leaves me very upset. I’m not a supporter or opponent of the death penalty, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Saddam’s public execution will only beget more violence in a country already rent by violence and civil war. It’s troublesome to me that a modern, 21st century International Community can stand by and passively condone the execution of a former international leader. Especially over something that happened 24 years ago. It’s strange to think that, four years before I was even BORN, Saddam’s fate was sealed.

In December, 109 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. And I find myself wondering… why are their deaths pardoned? To what extent were their deaths ordered by our national leader, who sent them into Iraq’s hotbed of violence … for what? God, I think that’s the kicker. There’s no answer to the WHY question. WHY did we invade Iraq in the first place? WHY is Bush trying to send an additional 17,000 to 20,000 Marines into Iraq, when the national consensus is that Americans want want our troops home, safe from harm?

Why, why, why?! Some say it was for oil. But I can’t accept that. I can’t accept that, 2,998 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq for the sake of secure oil reserve. I CAN’T believe that. But I keep asking WHY we went into Iraq in the first place, and I can’t get a satisfactory answer. Because Bush had an itch that Saddam might have WMDs, despite his advisers assurances to the contrary? If so, why hasn’t North Korea been invaded? Because of 9/11? We invade Iraq because an Afghani (which, despite a distinctly ignornant, American tendancy to generalize every nation in the Middle East as “one of those countries, over there,” is a DISTINCTLY different country, with its own history, culture, problems, etc) terrorist group attacked America? Would it make sense for Senegal to invade Canada is a group of KKK members bombed a Senegali commerce center? I know, these questions have been asked before. These points made previously, ad nauseum. But they’re still with me. Still, robbing me of some measure of peace, of hope and belief in the “system.”

I dunno. I guess I find it hard to answer, for myself, why the system legitimizes the death of 109 MORE Americans in Iraq, in the supposed name of national security, and condemns a man to death for the death of 158 Shiites, in the name of Iraqi national security.

Anyhow. Back from reading about … Mt. Kilimanjaro. Sheesh.

So anyhow. I’ll declare Tuesday as a national day of mourning, but to mourn the execution of an international leader, not the natural death of a rather insignificant American president. I don’t know what it will accomplish, other than to focus my thoughts on this troublesome international state of affairs, but I probably won’t eat on Tuesday. I don’t know how else to mourn. I can’t cry, and scoring my body with rocks or heaping ashes on my head seems a bit… like a throw-back to the days when life was brutish, nasty and short. When murder and execution were the way of things.

About Mark Egge

Two truths and a lie: Mark Egge is an outdoor enthusiast, opera singer, and a transportation data scientist. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.
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One Response to National Day of Mourning

  1. indecisive says:

    My mom and uncle work for the government, and they enjoyed the day off. So I’m not opposed to the whole day of mourning thing, because it benefiits my family. By the way, my mom is counting down, there are still 4 former presidents left that have to die.. she hopes they do before she retires. Yes, I have a morbid family.