Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

From Walls of Sorrow to Freedom of Speech



I was in the house with the windows closed and the air conditioner going when I heard a thunderous roar that I couldn’t identify. After checking around the house, I went out my front door where I could see the road leading to the baseball park. It was filled with motorcycle riders, their rolling rumble piercing my ears. Over two hundred, I read later. They were the escort riders for the Wall That Heals, the mobile exhibit that would be in town for the next four days. It’s a 250 foot, ½ scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on the National Mall in D.C. and its 24 panels contain more than 58,000 names of those who didn’t make it home. I’ve seen the actual Wall in Washington D.C. and it was an emotional experience. I had penpal relationships with over fifty guys over in ‘Nam spread out over four-five years and I tried to look them up in the index book by the Wall, but after finding a few listed I just couldn’t continue. It was too haunting and hard. I left behind a poem I wrote, tucked in a seam between two panels of the Wall. A very dark poem filled with unspeakable pain about one of those penpals who I had met in person and who nearly destroyed me. 

The traveling replica was in our state once before and Don and I went to see it. This time it was my husband who left haunted by the experience. At the very end of the 24th panel was a homemade sign on a stake that contained the name of a friend of Don's. It said he’d died of Agent Orange. This was in the ‘90s, just after our government finally got around to acknowledging the connection between Agent Orange and all the medical problems the guys who were exposed to those chemicals suffered. My husband’s friend had taken his own life just weeks before his wife placed that hand-painted sign at the replica Wall. He was a good guy, a guy who endured too much pain to stick around.

This week, when I heard the mobile Wall was going to be in the neighborhood I thought about going. I decided against it but the thunderous roar of the escort riders gave my mind’s eye perfect recall of the emotions that I didn’t want to revisit. You’d think after fifty years the edges of darkness would be dulled down, you’d think by now I could tell my story, the one in the poem I left behind in D.C. But I can’t. I’m not unique. Everyone who goes to ‘The Wall’ has a story of regrets, sorrows and what-ifs---many, like mine, are still held close to the vest.

When the Wall That Heals caravan reached the field where the Wall would be displayed a ceremony took place that included four vintage airplanes flying over my neighborhood. A relative put a video of them on Facebook circling around the field, thick streaks of smoke trailing behind them. I saw them when they passed over my house in close formation before they started their tribute. They made me sad but my nephew-in-law who posted the video commented that he was “honored to see them.” The Vietnam War ended before he was old enough to get drafted but the war was the backdrop to his entire childhood. He’s also an avid Trump supporter.

Civil War Union Army General William T. Sherman is noted for saying, "I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell." Yet here we are again, this time teetering on the edge of a nuclear war. And why? Because two bullies are itching to have a quick draw contest to see who has the biggest dick? If they don’t ratchet the rhetoric down, the next memorial wall we build will have the names of those lost to a nuclear war and its fallout and it might be long enough to double as Trump’s border wall.

I have mixed feelings on what it means to be patriotic in the year 2017. How can anyone claim to honor the flag and fallen soldiers and at the same time support a president who doesn’t respect free speech? We fought a war to cement that cornerstone into our Constitution. We are in dangerous territory with this president! He demonizes the press at every opportunity, then this past weekend it was six black athletes who were taking a knee in peaceful protest during the national anthem that he labeled "son-of-a-bitches" and called for boycotting the NFL until they are fired. Trump seems bent on dividing us, starting a culture war. We don’t have to like or agree with the point those athletes are trying to make about racial injustices but it is important that we all understand it’s their First Amendment right to dissent. Countries that demand total respect for their flags and anthems are call dictatorships. What comes after threats of getting fired? Jail time? A bullet in the head? What would Kim Jong-un do? What would an unfettered Trump do?

Taking a knee in peaceful protest historically goes back to Martin Luther King Jr. in the ‘60s. And have we forgotten Hall-of-Famer baseball legend Jackie Robinson? He didn’t kneel but as he wrote in his autobiography, "I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world." Times have changed since 1947 when he broke the color barrier in baseball but anyone who thinks that Lady Justice is color blind in 2017 is lying to themselves. I doubt Trump cares about the kneeling as much as he cares about distracting everyone from his ineptness in office. ©

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
 James Waterman Wise
1936, The Christian Century


43 comments:

  1. Excellent post!

    At this stage, I refuse to engage with, or respect any Dotard Donny supporter. Never mind politics, if you're not appalled by the blatant lying, nepotism, flagrant disregard of law, etc then I think it's a waste of time to engage with that petson(s). (I note that even the media now says 'lies' rather than euphemisms like 'mis-stated'.) I don't have your forbearance.

    What is happening in USA can easily happen here, or other countries with diverse populations. It's for that reason that I watch on, wondering how long before the madness is seen here.

    I don't think personal pain is ever forgotten; it just gets subsumed - until the next trigger. I watched a white haired couple in their 90s, hand in hand, today. And railed against God - why not me?! Then thought of those bereft in disaster areas, and again: why not me in that situation?! Ah, well, this too will pass, and dust-to-dust. ~ Libby

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    1. I always love your comments, and not just because you often agree with what I've written but because they demonstration that people can live in different countries and still have so much in common when it comes to values and feelings.

      "Why me" "why not me"...been there asked those questions too.

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  2. I too have visited "The Wall" in DC. I remember when it was first built, the critics described it as a long, dark, depressing monument to pain, but I've never been to a memorial that touched me so much. I remember taking paper and placing it over the name of my Marine and tracing his name. Recently, when looking through a box of old letters, I came across the etching. I googled his name, and there he was, in his uniform, forever young and beautiful. Fellow Marines had written beautiful things about him. War is so horrible. It is true that only people who've never served in war can call so easily for it. You did a beautiful job on this thoughtful post. I know you spent time on it.

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    1. Thank you. The post is longer than I usually write and I kept trying to cut here and there, but then I decided I might never write about this topic again.

      Oh, my gosh, I remember how they fought over the design before it was built and over who designed it, but I agree with you, it's a touching memorial, especially when you know all the symbolism involved and are standing there to see the reflections on the granite.

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  3. I'd like to see the wall, if only to connect with certain men who fell there, to see their names recorded, before some fools decide to destroy it.

    I don't think there's a law out there that says what we are supposed to do in respect to our flag or our anthem. I wonder who started the business of standing with our hands over our hearts. I know soldiers are expected to stand for the flag ...

    I agree, and I am tired and sick of it, too.

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    1. There's a flag etiquette, but not a law. At least not now but this past weekend it's been proposed we have one. I doubt it could ever pass because of the free speech issue, but then I didn't think we could ever elect a man like we did either. Scary stuff.

      The moving wall goes to the southern states during the winter. You should check the schedule to see if it will be near you. It's not as beautiful as the original but it's still an emotional experience worth doing.
      http://www.themovingwall.org/current_schedule.html

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    2. Missed it by a couple of weeks :(

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  4. I can only say I agree, and well done.

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  5. Excellent post.
    (I am sick of knee jerk patriotism.)

    On to the wall - I went to the traveling wall in the very early 90's. Rick and I planed a day of visiting this and then meeting friends at Smugglers Wharf for a late lunch and drinks on the water. After we visited this wall, neither of us felt very much like laughing and being at the Wharf. We ended up cancelling and going home. It was a very somber day for us.
    Is it because we lived Vietnam and those younger than us didn't?
    I always wondered about that. I live now in the DC Metro area and have been to all the monuments and museums and I must say this one hits me harder. I often felt it was because of being of the age when I feared my loved ones draft notice etc. But then I did not live during the time of the Holocaust but I can not bring my self to visit that museum. My good friend went and described the baby shoes half burned and I knew this was not an image I would be able to erase. Knowing it was enough for me. Our history is so ugly in so many ways. So when we get visitors I will go to all other museums but not that one. When visitors go they come back to my home quiet and the day is changed as are they.

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    1. When you walk down toward the vertex in the Wall you can't help feeling the forbearing that hits you hard by the time you get to the end. I think you're right to some a certain extent that it's because we lived Vietnam every day for so many years when we were younger. But from a design standpoint the young 18 year old who designed that Wall---maybe without even knowing it---did an outstanding job of incorporating an understated drama and solemness.

      I'm glad we have a Holocaust Museum here(and in other countries) but I don't think I'd want to go. Reading books about it was hard enough. The images, like you said, would be so hard to erase from your mind.

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  6. Jean:

    very thoughtful blog, & I value your opinions on all subject, though I am quite conflicted about this disrespect of our national anthem. even though I personally don't like our president for many reasons but for this one, I feel he is right. you can show behind black lives matters by doing marches, but not on the field by showing disrespect to our national anthem I know its freedom of speech & gets every one to notice the issue & talk about it, but I feel by disrespecting your country, it creates divisiveness. that's just my opinion.

    Asha

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    1. I'm sure that a lot of people agree with you and the president on this topic, Asha. And I thank you for giving balance here in my blog. However, in my view it's him who is creating the divisiveness and controversy by calling attention to what just SIX guys were doing on the field. He made a mountain out of a mole hill, so to speak and is suggesting we should all have our free speech limited because of the six protesters he doesn't agree with. To me, that's a much bigger issue than whether or not someone is disrespecting the flag. Kid Rock prancing around a stage draped in an American flag, to me, is disrespectful. I can hate it but not want to have a law made to prevent him and others from doing it.

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    2. I so agree, he never acts presidential, & never act as adult, instead always want to have last word like kids which causes controversy & brings issue to forefront. I guess that's what America gets it for electing 5th grader as our president lol

      Asha

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  7. We got to see the wall once while in Washington, DC. What a reverent awesome display.

    Can't he be impeached for conduct unbecoming a President? He is downright dangerous now ....

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  8. 58,318 names on the Wall. I saw it in DC, very emotional. I still have my metal POW/MIA bracelet and yes, I found my pilot's name on the Wall. His remains were finally recovered from the jungle in 2005. I had received notice and also the address of his family, if I wanted to write them, which I did.

    There has been such an outcry, from Liberals, because Tim Tebow took a knee to pray before football games, because he shouldn't show his religious belief. But now NOT an outcry, from these same Liberals because these over-paid. spoiled brats, who are there mainly to put on a show for the paying public, take a knee? Seems like a very biased reaction to me. If you are going to preach tolerance, then you better be prepared to walk the walk and be tolerant of others--even those you don't agree with.
    Personally, in my own quiet way, I am boycotting the NFL and the President. Just like I did the last President--whom a lot of us feel is responsible for dividing our country even more and also responsible for all of this demonstration fiasco.

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    1. I think you're the only person I ever knew who wore a POW/MIA bracelet where the MIA was found. Glad his family got the closure in that.

      I must have missed the "Liberal outcry" about Tim Tebow taking a knee to pray. Sounds like a fake news story to me spread by Hannity, Rush and Coulter. Liberal sources sure weren't talking about it.

      I've heard you say it before that you believe Obama divided the country and I doubt I'll ever understand how right-wingers come to that conclusion. I will concede that just electing a black man brought out some racism to the surface that was there all along when a bunch of good old white boys got scared that the country was changing too fast. They fueled the Birther Fraud that Trump kept pushing which built a lot of resentments in the black community. Whites who couldn't accept Obama as a legitimate president don't see themselves as racists though. The point I'm trying to make is the country was already divided before Obama came along, we whites just turned a blind eye to the systemic injustices and the blacks weren't willing to allow that anymore after so many whites couldn't accept a highly educated, thoughtful and moral man as THE PRESIDENT, not JUST the black president. It's all a which came first, the chicken or the egg puzzle in my opinion.

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    2. In re: Tim Tebow, The Liberals I know on FB and the NBC news. I have nothing to do with Hannity, Rush, Coulter, FOX news or CNN--ever.

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    3. I just googled "NBC+TimTebow+praying" and all I could find was an article from LIFEnew.com a prolife site with an article titled "NBC Mocks Tim Tebow." I read the entire article and couldn't see the mocking they saw. It's so interesting that people can read the same words and come away with a different impressions. http://www.lifenews.com/2011/12/12/nbc-mocks-tim-tebow-as-gods-quarterback-cites-pro-life-ad/

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    4. Just wanted to say that I never once heard any of my family--all liberal democrats--say a thing about Tim Tebow (my son's favourite QB) praying. And my two sons and my husband, all fantasy team owners, watch a LOT of football. Sadly, for me.

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    5. Thank you for that, Nance. I get irritated by right wingers who, 1) assume liberals can't be Christians, too, and 2) assume if one liberal says something they don't like, then that person represent all liberal thinking. I honestly don't see any difference between Tim and Colin's kneeling on the field. Both are making very public statements about their values and the 1st amendment gives them that right.

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    6. Here's an interesting article comparing Tim and Colin. I learned a lot about them both. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/09/24/colin-kaepernick-vs-tim-tebow-a-tale-of-two-christianities-on-its-knees/?utm_term=.48b7cbe15562

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  9. I am torn about seeing the wall. I have too many friends there and think it would be brutal to see their names.
    I love my country but not right or wrong. When she is wrong, we need to take a stand or in this case, a knee. The peaceful protest was done with complete respect. No twerking to the anthem, no one finger salutes. Just one knee to the ground and a lowered head. Do not understand the furor by citizens but totally understand what 45 is doing is purely a distraction.

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    1. It's hard to see the Wall. It's all those names arranged in the order in which they died that got to me. You could see the escalation before your eyes.

      The meme from the Daily Show that I posted, I think, addresses why some citizens are in a fury over the peaceful protesters. Not all of course, but I heard today that Trump is not going to drop this. He wants a meeting with the owners to get them to make a rule against kneeling. I also wonder how much of this is to get even with the owners for not allowing him to buy a team. He never forgets a slight and calling for a boycott to get even seems right up his alley.

      http://www.newsweek.com/trumps-nfl-fight-dates-back-failed-usfl-experiment-80s-jeff-pearlman-670843

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  10. Jean you say it all so well. Go girl go!

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  11. The day we are governed on how we MUST honor or respect our flag or our President, is the day the Constitution and the Founding Fathers are lost to us. Period.

    thank you for your post. :)

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  12. I appreciate your tolerance of opposing views. I work with some very fine women who supported Trump and we've talked about it from time to time.

    It's clear to me that although we're able to discuss some of the issues, I'm not going to abandon my attitude of inclusiveness nor are they going to stop thinking 'things' should go back to where they were before there were so many of 'them'. Trump's continuous desire to rile people up around vague fears is inexcusable and I too wonder why the House isn't starting incompetency hearings.

    I've been watching The Vietnam War on PBS, but I can only take a bit at a time. The misinformation that got us into that war is sickening. What did we learn? Wars can no longer be won, there are no quick fixes, and critical thinking seems to have gone completely out the window with this administration. If it wasn't a racial bias that turned so many people against Obama, I need to hear what it was. Was he perfect? Of course not. I was disappointed in some of his choices, but I too think he was decent, moral, and waaaaaaaaay brighter than Mr. Trump.

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    1. I just heard on the news tonight that the Russian troll farms were even working this weekend, posting on both sides of the NFL/kneeling issue with the goal to inflame the kind of conflict and unrest that Trump started. Some of the fake posts they did on Facebook regarding the election have been released, too. I think so much hate towards Hillary was based on is information from these troll farms, it's scary that so many people have no critical thinking skills. Like you said, there are no quick fixes. Lies that get us into wars from our own government are bad enough, now we have lies from other countries into the mix.

      The history books will be good to Obama, I have no doubt about that.

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  13. Excellent post with points to which we all should pay attention. So much at stake as our Prez's words and actions seem to deliberately cultivate divisiveness, not only within our nation but with the world. Our freedoms are at great risk of being taken from us if this Prez continues his self-interest goals and possibly even grander objectives.

    Vietnam -- a tragedy in our lifetime that clearly impacted this nation in a way forever altering us. Sorry you had such an impacting experience then. You have described the situation in very moving language. I've seen the wall and those never-ending names only in photos, but I'm sure seeing the actual wall, or even the replica, would unleash unbidden feelings beyond my control.


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    1. I hate to fill my blog with political stuff but sometimes I do have to speak up because it's such an important topic. I also don't want to be one of those people who avoids the news for weeks/months on end then wonders how we got from point A to point B. I think of Germany before WWII and the people were taken in my Hilter's promises. We can't let that happen here. I never understood how that happened until Trump was elected. Very scary times!

      Vietnam: you summed it up perfectly in your first sentence in the last paragraph.

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  14. I have been having a busy month and although I have been reading all your posts, I have had little opportunity to comment.
    On this post, I am in complete agreement with you and most of your commenters. I am not sure why anyone would consider kneeling to be anything less than respectful.
    I wanted to add that ignorance is an issue but once you are aware of something and no longer ignorant of it, change needs to happen. There was a piece in the NYT the other day by Charles Blow which included the third verse of the National Anthem. It should no longer be our national anthem if it is disrespecting people. If people continue to sing the National Anthem after being made aware of the history and prejudices of the writer of the song, they are being disrespectful.
    Regards, and I totally respect the players who are on their knees to protest.
    Leah

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    1. I'm glad you shared this. Both the third and forth verses makes it clear the song doesn't include black people when they sing about the land of the free and the home of the brave. The complete lyrics can be found here: http://www.dictionary.com/e/star-spangled-banner/

      I think Trump might have just opened up a can of worms he can't get back in the can.

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  15. You know Jean, being a Canadian at times I feel that maybe I don't understand Americans. Yesterday when I read by now that U.S. International Trade Commission has plastered duties of 220% on the CSeries planes built by Bombardier, Inc. I thought that the U.S. and Canada were friends but now that big tough Trump is charge I'm not sure anymore. But the I read your blog today I know that many Americans are good friends because I had tears in my eyes about the Wall That Heals. I had a friend ( Bee's husband ) Sarge Charlie Cordle who fought in the Vietnam War and died after all those years having pain caused by the war. I'm not sure what will happen since we all have problems with this president, I will always think about Charlie and not Trump.
    I loved your blog Jean. I'm very glad that I, a Canadian have you, an American and many of my American friends are there whether or not Trump wants a friendship with Canada I will always have you all as my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Fortunately, Trump won't be in office forever and that is what I hold on to. We just have to trust that our checks and balances keep him from doing anything that can't be undone. 220% duties! That got lost in our news cycle but it's a good example of how Trump is trying to be an isolationist. I sincerely believe that most Americans love our neighbors to the north. I've never heard a bad word spoken about you guys up there and we share a common border here in Michigan.

      Sorry to heat about your friend, Charlie. It's good to talk about those where were lost from time to time though. They haven't been forgotten so long we still speak their names.

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  16. Every word of this post rang with the depths of emotion and pain many of our generation felt about Viet Nam, with every story of personal pain women have experienced in relationship, with the outrage and fear many of us feel under the current presidential regime. I'm glad you went 'long' on this one. It all resonated.

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    1. Sometimes it's hard to say what I want in a under 900 words. That's why it makes me laugh that Twitter is adding characters to their 120 (I think) tweets.

      Vietnam is so hard to explain to younger people...the emotions, the protests, the senselessness of it all. It was a hard post to write but I'm glad I did it.

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  17. I thought about writing to President Trump to tell him that I find his use of profanity when speaking as President very disrespectful to our country, so I don't think he is in a position to criticize others for not being sufficiently respectful. But then I thought, "Why bother? He wouldn't get it." -Jean

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    1. You're right. He wouldn't get it. Every day he finds a new way to degrade the office of the presidency.

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  18. I always enjoy seeing a strong woman speak her mind. Kudos and HUGE Hugs...RO

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