Yesterday I attended Frederick's Days of Reflection On the Human Cost of War, organized by Women in Black, Frederick (the Frederick, Maryland branch of a grassroots womens' peace movement), in conjunction with other groups.
The most engrossing part of the event was the display of combat boots representing the 40 members of the military from Maryland who have died while fighting the war against Iraq.
While there, I took photographs for a photo essay.
I took my turn standing in silent vigil, next to the boots on the steps of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in downtown Frederick, Maryland.
I thought of how interesting it was that, once again — as with the shoes I wrote about representing Nazi victims of the Holocaust — we have footwear representing casualties of the war.
Similarly, the Paper Clips project I wrote about earlier in the week provided a way for people to contemplate the enormity of the Holocaust by the collection of millions of paper clips. The message I take from these exhibits is that symbols can help people grapple with complicated issues.
Sitting by the boots was a book containing the names of those injured in the war. I checked and it included the name of at least one Iraq war veteran whose injury I wrote about. This brought the issue full circle for me.
The display itself was respectful and non-partisan. Families who asked not to have their child's image and story listed had their wishes honored. It was not listed as a peace
vigil but as Days of Reflection. As if to reinforce that concept, a reflection of the boots could be seen in a window across the street.
I watched, mute, as people walked by the church in busy downtown Frederick. Some took long breaths as if trying to digest and accept the hard reality that is the casualties of this war. Others averted their eyes as if not looking at the boots would help keep them blissfully ignorant of war's costs.
It made me think of the fitting title of the exhibit: Eyes Wide Open.