Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Small White Crosses of Santa Barbara

"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths...I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" – Barbara Bush

As John Lennon so accurately wrote: "War Is Not the Answer."

If you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara on a Sunday, make your way over to the pier area. There you will see an impressive and moving display put on a group of veterans against war that is comprised of rows and row of white crosses. Each one represents a brave American serviceman or servicewoman that has died in Iraq.

As you look across that beautiful beach at those endless rows of crosses, you begin to realize what has truly been lost. So many souls that will never be able to enjoy a summer day or look at such a beautiful beach. I was so moved by this display four summers ago while visiting Santa Barbara, a poem just poured out of me. It was more like a torrent.

Back then the we had lost 912 soldiers in Iraq. As of today, we have lost 4,131 soldiers and no one really knows how many Iraqis have died. They stopped their crosses at 3,000 at Santa Barbara's Arlington West, but still display is more than powerful in conveying the ultimate loss.

I have posted a video at the end of this post and included photos I shot of the display. I also posted an interesting photo I created using one of the postcards from the veterans group that puts on the display and a picture of a smiling George W. Bush. Seems appropriate.

Here's also a poem I wrote about the white crosses of Santa Barbara. Please visit there soon and give the veterans alive and dead the support and respect they deserve. You can also check out the Veterans for Peace Santa Barbara Chapter Web site for more information:

Peace is the answer....




It's Sunday morning
of the rest of our lives.

Small white crosses
lined up in neat
rows in the sand.

More set up each week.

representing more
than mere words can convey.

A soul extinguished.
So much lost.

Memories erected
now for spirits
struck down far too soon.

Dreams vanishing daily in the sands
another world away

Small white crosses
back home
on different sands.

Nearby volleyball players
and sunbathers
enjoy another warm Sunday
in the middle of the summer.

So many walk past
oblivious to
the small white crosses
the passing
of those who will never
strike a volleyball again
or enjoy the pleasures
of a summer day.

Feeling selfish.
Justifications fail me.

The sacrifice
seems more than
we can ask.

More than we can bear.

Looking across this beach
that used to bring me so much joy.
Tears well up in my eyes,
but they won’t come
only the rage
coming in waves
choking me.

A freedom
to breathe in this summer day
to those of the small white crosses.

Their lives loom so much larger
than the markers.

They admonish us in the silence.

Their memories
reaching out to us
across this serene stretch of Santa Barbara beach.

The waves,
the sand
so deceptively calm.

Yet evoking
the sad lessons of war
all the same.

The small white crosses
a sort of Sunday service.

Speaking to us
across the sands of time
reminding us of other losses
in other wars.

Leaving us lost in the silence
of our consciences.

Where are our tears
for the small white crosses?

912 and counting.

Each day,
each night,
each week,
the small white crosses
in sorrow and pain.

When will it stop?
When will it ever stop?

Hollowed ground
in the sand
this Sunday
and all the Sundays to come.

The vigil will continue.
The prayers never cease.

This line of small white crosses
looms ever larger
in our imaginations.

Their voices speaking to us
in our nightmares
and our dreams.

Our anger and our sorrow doesn't seem large enough somehow.

The small white crosses
of Santa Barbara
haunt me daily
and in the wee hours of the morning
trouble me to my core.

Each one leading
to so many other
the families will bear forever.

This is my Vietnam
but what have I done to stop it?

What have I done?

Nothing at all
as the small white crosses
of Santa Barbara beach
multiply in number each Sabbath.

somber reminders
of our broken
our broken hearts,
our large and looming

Our hopes
buried in
the sand a world away
and here today.

No trace left
except for
the white markers
to reawaken our
heartaches for an eternity.

George Pappas
Copyright 2008

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