The skyscrapers of the Wilshire corridor cast eerie shadows on the war protestors. The parade of meager peaceniks winds its way down the avenue. Helicopters buzz above. Gradually she appears. Not a goddess peddling perfumes, alcohol or a TV series, but a sister selling more sinister merchandise – war.
Amidst a backdrop of hot orange flames there she stands – powerful, potent. Lust for revenge tints her eyes. She possesses the look of a mother protecting her young or a sister holding the mad pillaging masses at bay. A woman avenging her charges – her whole being consumed by her perception of all that should be just in an unjust world.
Clad in military gear she stands 10 stories tall. Not a white man in a uniform but a woman embodying toughness and sensuality. Her full lips beckoning to the masses, “Here I stand sick of this shit. Join me in my fight. Relish my revenge, my cry to arms!” To her, war is no longer the domain of men. War is creation. War is longing.
In her hands she holds an M-16 – barrel upright and straight ready to release its explosive power onto another. One hand grasps the muzzle, the other the trigger. She is poised, ready to squeeze it at the first sign of the enemy. She has shed her womanhood for that which traditionally defines a man. To her right stand two towers – parallel to her weapon. Three sets of dots. One set of dots a metaphor for a nation’s grief, the others a symbol of annihilation.
An eagle bursts through the flaming inferno, a predator lurking among the ruins for prey claws extended and ready to pierce the enemy with its razor sharp talons. He is a symbol of power and might – masculine, hard. A creature which consumes the flesh of its prey and leaves nothing behind to hint at the life that it has taken, save for a few scattered bones. The predatory eagle is a fitting companion for the she-soldier.
She has nothing tangible to stand on. Instead she relies on two words to hold her upright. The first word – liberty– is written in smaller print while the second – justice – in bold block letters. It is almost as if liberty is an afterthought – a collocation. Liberty alone cannot support her. Instead she needs a subjective construct to bear the full weight of her actions. What is justice, after all? How many before her have used this relative term to back their own ideas about the world? In her case the word only gains strength when she hides behind letters printed in bold.
In the corner lie two small words almost undetectable to an outsider’s eye – 9/11. Somehow she knows that using the grief and suffering of others as a trigger for her own itching fingers is wrong. She embraces these numbers in embarrassment knowing that the ideals validating her future actions are tainted. The truth does not lie in grief. She realizes that the cries of the very people she is trying to protect in the name of justice have in fact subsided.
As the protesters slowly proceed north she begins to disappear. Her picture is a memory floating among the banners and flags calling for hope – her mere presence a reason to speak out.
Copyright K. Datko 2002