So, where were you the week the war in Iraq began? I know that this week that we recognize the beginning of the war in Iraq should be noted. In the effort to say the right thing about war we all struggle to find just the right words. I, for one, always taken the “mother’s stance” in the matter of war and simply said that it should never be. However, I don’t suppose we are ever surprised when a war begins. In this case though, I truly could not believe it.
In our lives we always have those bench marks that leave a mark, a tiny scar as it were, on our being. The war in Iraq was one of those for me. The emotional disbelief came very close to mirroring those I felt after the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Robert. I was in the classroom for the first and running a vacation bible school for the second. In those two cases I lost my youth with a whole generation of college young people. But the war in Iraq caused a disbelief of a totally different kind. For some reason, I had come to believe that the check and balances in our government could somehow stop irresponsible actions both by our military and the executive and legislative branches of our government. What had not yet registered with me was that the people that needed to disagree in this type of situation had no power at all. We, the American people, had chosen to elect people of like mind to run those two branches of our government and now we were going to live with the consequences.
My husband and I had decided to travel to Spain that spring. We were to meet our son and daughter-in-law for a week in Malaga and we were suppose to go back home with them to Saudi Arabia. We had purchased our visa from the Saudi king and had flights to Madrid where we were to spend a week being tourists. The US government did not recommend travel and our family worried about travel at that time. We, however, could not believe that our president would go to war when he did not have enough reason. So we went.
The week in Madrid went as we had hoped until a gypsy stole my wallet and my pass port. It was never retrieved and the embassy gave me a new one. The Saudi government on the other hand would not replace the visa and the trip to my son’s home had to be abandoned.
We watched the news on BBC daily and continued our trip. We had no specific plans other than to meet out son and Amanda in Malaga within a week or so. After that we were to stay in a condo on the Mediterranean for a week. The original plan had been for us to fly home with them after that. And war was looming.
The people in Spain were opposed to this war and marched on the street both in Madrid and Malaga. We stood as witnesses to a people acting peacefully to show their displeasure with their leaders. News reports said that 80% of the population of Spain opposed the decision made by their elected leader of government. “No a la Guerra!” buttons appeared everywhere and I have a tee shirt in my closet with this the slogan. The people held huge peace rallies in the Puerta Del Sol in Madrid. The people in Malaga marched through the street beating drums and waving banners. Signs baring the words”Bush is not our president”, as well as words in Arabic and communist party symbols were held high by people marching side by side with people dressed all in white representing a drum beating pacifist group from Europe. Mothers with daughter, grandparents and husbands marched. We were drawn to this as it wandered through the city for the whole afternoon. We could hear the rumbling of the drums and roar of loud speakers as the day wore on. I was not prepared for the Spanish people to be so outspoken about their opposition and I do not know if people in the United States ever saw this at all.
During the week that the war broke out, there was a storm on the Mediterranean of ‘biblical’ proportions. Waves broke over the sea walls all up and down the Spanish coast and businesses near the ocean were flooded and filled with sand. The ancient Roman watchtowers stood as reminders of a time when such a thing would have been viewed as an omen of bad things to come. We shuddered and stayed where we were. We stayed where we were!
Andy and Amanda flew in from Saudi Arabia and we spent a glorious week with them visiting the Alhambra in Granada and the bull ring in Ronda. We simply enjoying the tourist gathering on the coast of Spain. Amanda was pregnant with Maddie at that time and it was a great joy for us to spend time together. But then we sent them home, it was with a heavy heart. We were watching them go back into the eye of the storm. We did not go with them and after a week more in Spain we went home.
It might be noted that this was during the Easter season. We witnessed Palm Sunday in Benalmedina Pueblo. There were drums and bugles. A float bearing a statue of Christ holding palm branches was carried by a multitude of strong men. Women dressed as Nazarenes with tall pointed hats and masks covering their faces lead daughter as they marched another afternoon away. We could hear the stomp of the men carrying the float bearing the Christ figure and the beating of the drums for hours. Because the two events were so similar in feel they held a special meaning for us. I sometimes have to go back to our pictures remind me that we were there…we were there.