So, I’m on Facebook this morning checking out the stories of kids going off to school, the pet photos, the goofy one liners and the latest from my friend “The Diphthong”, a guy I went to school with who lives in a park with his iPad and some squirrels. He can walk to a Starbucks in one direction or the Library in another for the free wireless hook-up. In the winter he moves to the Keys. In the Summer he’s up in Maine where he is now for another month or so until all the hurricanes wash the place off down there. Nice way to live. He calls himself a hermit Some day I’ll tell you how he got his name.
Anyway, just after I read about Dippy, my friend’s nick name for himself, I see something else that sends me looking for a piece of paper and a pencil to “do the math” like an accountant friend of mine used to say. Words don’t seem to impress as much as numbers do. Numbers help me put things in perspective, sharpen my vision so to speak.
Are you old enough to remember Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings and Huntley and Brinkley during the Vietnam War? I am. One of the things I remember from those guys was how much they loved numbers. At some time during the nightly newscast on each network, CBS, NBC and ABC, the suits in the front would gravely intone the Number.
What number? Why the number of young men killed in Vietnam that day, or that week. Did I say some time? Once a night wasn’t enough. The count was often repeated if my memory serves, so that us folks at home knew the cost, and remembered it and thought about it. It was called, variously, the Body Count or the Death Count.
While it was not said aloud, the accompanying films from the latest front line activity would let us know how those hundreds of soldiers were having a number done on them. None of it was pretty. None of it at all. And, a lot of folks, after a few years of numbers and pictures began to say, “What the hell are you doing? Stop it! Just stop it!”
The guys down in DC, the ones who “started” it, or the ones who took over and kept it going explained and defended and continued. The reasons, they said, for going on with the killing, were good reasons. But the number announcements kept on always climbing — oh yeah the news guys included the Total every once in a while — until the total of a little more than 58, 000 dead soldiers was reached. I don’t know how many more were wounded. Wait! I can Google that.
The wounded number is 153,303. That’s a big number.
I don’t remember much about the wounded number being part of the daily announcement of the “Body Count”. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Dead soldiers made headlines, though, and over time changed minds. It’s the dead soldiers whose names appear on The Wall. The wounded are, well, forgotten mostly, except for parades and holidays.
Well this morning, like I said above, about the time I finished reading the little report from Dippy on his afternoon with the squirrels and blue jays, I came across something from another person I know well, my wife Mariellen. She had shared a picture from a website called Pro Life Rocks. The picture caught my eye because on the top half there was a photo of the World Trade Center as it looked at about 10:15AM on September 11, 2001, a beautiful morning a lot like this one. Alas I remember it well. I remember the people I knew who worked there that day, and remember the people who worked nearby. The people in the first half of that sentence are all dead. The people in the second half are just wounded. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut might have said.
Do you remember that day’s number? I do. It was more than 3,000. That’s about a thousand more people than the number of poor souls who died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, in case you wanted to know. You remember that day, don’t you? FDR gave it a name. He baptized it the
Day That Will Live In Infamy.
I guess that there can only be one of those days per country. Sometimes it seems that there ought to be more. Poland sure could name a few, like every day between September 1, 1939 and April, 1945; and an awful lot after that until Lech Walesa sat down and said, “No mas.” But then, I think that “infamy”, a good word, a strong word, would be robbed of some of its strength. Infamy would be turned into a yawn from overuse.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the picture of the World Trade center and the number. That wasn’t all that was in the photo from my wife, the photo from this organization called Pro Life Rocks. The rest of the photo was a picture of a little baby. I couldn’t tell how old the baby was. It was kind of hard to see because the words in front of it obscured the picture a bit. I just knew it was a wrinkled little thing behind the words.
The words had something to do with comparing the baby and the 3,000 people who were murdered by the dirty rats who turned a jet plane into a bomb. They said that 3,000 was a little less than the number of babies which we allowed to be killed every day here in the former United States of America, the place where it was said and used to be believed that “…all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator, etc., etc., etc…” You remember that, of course. It’s in the Declaration of Independence, under glass and guarded somewhere in DC.
The way they described the situation in the picture was that a “little over 3500” babies were killed every day — every single day. Chop, slice, cut, suck, 24/7! Day! After! Day! After! Day! All over the land, as Woodie Guthrie might sing.
I was moved by some perverse desire to know what this meant so I got out paper and pencil and did the math on 3500 dead babies a day. It works out to about 145 an hour. Actually it’s about one hundred and forty five and a half babies an hour. Half a kid left hanging until the clock ticks off another hour and the count goes on. On, and on, and on.
And those figures are just estimates. How do you translate that estimate into income and expenses I wondered? How many hours full of dead babies make it worthwhile for the government to spend money to keep your doors open so you can continue to kill them? How many hours full of dead babies buy a politician’s support? How many hours buy a nation’s soul? How many dead babies buy an editorial about Reproductive Health? How many will get your attention?
A couple of years before she died Mother Teresa visited us here. I think she was asked to address the US Congress, a lot of whose members love the folks who are in the business of killing babies. (Well at least they take their money.) Stop it! She said. For God’s sake and your own, stop it! All the usual suspects thought she was nuts. It’s okay for her to clean up the streets. Dying beggars get in the way. 145 babies an hour is business, though.
All those dead. There are no wounded, you know.
Unless you want to count us. We are “bleeding out”.
NOTE: If you’re interested in seeing the photo I’m talking about, go here. It’s in the middle of the page. Just scroll on down a bit in the Facebook section.
ANOTHER NOTE: At the current rate the number of dead babies we make here in this country passes the number of dead soldiers in Vietnam about every 16 or 17 days. A lot of folks I know take longer vacations than that.