While we’ve never met I felt compelled to write. I read your letter in the Irish News and I am sorry it was a problem for you to have your children participate in Remembrance Day activities at school.
First let me offer that what I say is coloured by a the fact that while Irish and living here, I was reared in America. It was a gift that my grandparents left in 1908, I knew nothing of The Troubles. I am sorry for the trauma that characterised your upbringing and sadly continues into the present lives of your children. I mean to neither minimise that pain or deny its legacy. For you personally and for us all.
That said, as an American I witnessed the horror of having my peers return from service in Vietnam, wounded if not physically then spiritually by the horrors they experienced. They witnessed the destruction of entire villages – napalmed out of existence – and some barren to this day. Children raped and murdered, comrades killed and captured. Those who returned met with having their experience ignored at best and vilified at worst. Many were called baby killers by protesters meeting planes.
We did, however, learn an important lesson. While a majority of us did not support the imperialism to which you refer – by the time of the Kuwait and Iraq invasions we collectively responded with “I support the soldiers not the war”.
And this is my point. These young men and women are every woman’s sons and daughters. No woman experiences labour and delivery and sleepless nights for two decades to think of her child as mere cannon fodder.
So I would ask for you to let go of your hatred of the British for long enough to love for a moment the children of heartbroken mothers lost on the fields of Europe – 50,000 of them Irish in WWI alone. I would ask you to remember the Irish soldiers who served in the liberation of Italy – Ireland was neutral, but many served with allied forces, US and British. I would ask you to remember the Irish messenger, a former war chaplain, who brought Churchill the news that in the name of those fallen in WWI, Ireland had no more sons to give. Young Englishmen died in their places.
I proudly have a poppy and pray for peace. I wear my poppy in solidarity with the mothers who paid for my freedom with the blood of their sons and daughters. Because before I am a citizen of Ireland or America, before I am a Jew reared Roman Catholic, before all other things I am a mother. Blessed to never have had to sacrifice a child.
For an earlier blog post on Remembrance, Poppies & Homelands