Thursday, March 2, 2017

#SOL17: The Widow and Mr. Trump

Grief (M.A. Reilly 2016)




I.

I had to look away from my laptop.
I had to.

Watching the attention Mr. Trump placed on the widow of the dead Navy Seal felt like a car wreck I came upon suddenly, without notice, and as much as I wanted to look away, I also feel drawn to witness. Yes, to bear witness to Carryn Owens' pain.

Widow to widow.

But I failed and I couldn't look as it raised for me the pain of my own husband's death that happened nearly a year ago.  I turned my head and said a quick prayer that Ms. Owens' shock and pain might be lessened somehow--but I doubted it. I wondered if the loneliness she is just beginning to name wasn't more pronounced in that hall with hundreds standing and cheering. After those present, those who had been standing and cheering sat down, their lives would continue on unabated. They will not carry this loss beyond that moment. Carryn Owen's life has been altered tragically. After the applause she remains the widow and now a single parent.

Those who have not lost a husband--who have not lost in the flash of a moment their imagined and desired future, cannot possibly understand that even the most well intentioned and politically-free talk will not cure what hurts beyond expression. Words will not heal. Someone who should not have died is dead and nothing said in that room will alter that reality.  Carryn Owens' surrounded by so many others is painfully alone.

II.

Today, I had more courage and watched the exchange. I saw her lips moving as she look skyward and remembered in the moment how I had gazed skyward as I communed with Rob. At those moments I needed his support especially when the kindness of others undid me. I wondered what story Mr. Trump wanted the presence of the widow to suggest.  Her grief is so new, so raw, so personal, so lonely. What were we to make of that?  And why? What's the narrative here?  What did Trump mean when he directly addressed Ms. Owens' and said,

 “And Ryan is looking down, right now, you know that? And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record."

When I heard him utter this, I could not imagine he was talking about the applause--as if something so fleeting, so banal might be a source of the serviceman's happiness. There is nothing happy here for this family.

Why put her on display? And before those of you say she had free will and accepted the invitation--I would say that much of the weeks following a shocking loss are weeks where decision making is impossible.  Yes, impossible.

A few days after Rob's death, after everyone went home and Devon went to high school, I sat in the dining room of our home for more than two hours staring out the window unable to make decisions about the most routine of things. Pay the electric bill?  Call EZ-Pass to begin to have the account shifted from Rob's name to mine? Contact our insurance company to stop coverage for Rob?Send a death certificate and copy of the will to the car company so that Rob's beloved car could be transferred to me? Make dinner? Do the laundry?

Every action reinforced my husband's absence.  In the quiet of the house I did not want to hear he was gone as I kept expecting him to come through the front door.  In short, I was a mess and as I imagine is true for most widows I was also so very lost, so very vulnerable and frankly unable to be responsible for most anything, save my son.

Why didn't Trump simply acknowledge the immense sacrifice of the Owens'? Why display the widow?


III.

As I wondered about Ms. Owens, I recalled the Republican convention last summer and the moment when 4 parents, one after another, spoke about their dead children and blamed either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for their children's deaths. It was politicized speech stuck onto the backs of the grieving and as I wrote then, it made me ill. Call me cynical, but this speech by Trump also felt manipulative. There has been speculation about the readiness and support for the Seal team in Yemen. But also significant, there is the complete absence by our commander in chief, Mr. Trump, to accept responsibility for a mission that went wrong. A mission that resulted in the deaths of Chief Petty Officer William Owens and 20 civilians, including women and children. Mr. Trump, only a few days ago, publicly stated that it was "the generals" who lost Owens.  He seems to have washed his hands.

Yet it was Trump, and only Trump, who sat that evening over dinner with his son-in-law, political advisor Bannon, Mattis, Dunford, Pence and Flynn and green-lighted the mission. The president gave the go ahead and should be responsible as presidents are for the outcome.  Instead of bearing responsibility we are left with Trump blaming the generals and displaying the widow.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

This is not presidential.
This is cowardly.

32 comments:

  1. This is a powerful and painfully honest post. I am so glad you wrote it because as I watched the spotlight on the widow, I felt "shame on you" Mr. Trump and all your associates and your family. This recent, raw grief should not be used in the way you are using it...to achieve your own ends. I ccould barely watch this woman cry and lift her eyes to the heavens as she searched for her dear, lost son. I cannot imagine how upset you must have been by this shameful display, and I applaud your courage for writing this. It's so good I think it should be published where lots and lots of people can see it.

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    1. Thank you so much. I felt so similarly. Shame on Trump.

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  2. I am a widow, too...I understand with all my heart. It has been many years, but I remember how those early days felt. How in moments even now the loss feels sharp although the memories are gentler and more comforting. Grieving is not political. Comfort is found so much more in private moments than public.

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    1. It's good to read what you write here--that the days get easier. With the anniversary in just a few days the heart ache is so acute.I love your last line: Comfort is found so much more in private moments than public.

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  3. Mary Ann, the wisdom and pain you bring to this post were eye-opening for me. Thank you for going to that personal place and sharing it with us. And some writerly feedback: I like how you organized the three "chapters" in this piece. It really works.

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    1. Thank you Lisa for all your comments. I appreciate the writerly insights as well.

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  4. I could not bring myself to watch the speech, but I did read of this exchange, and it just reinforced everything I already felt about this dreadful man - he used this woman's grief for his own political purposes, and I wished she had followed her father in law's example and simply not put herself in such a position by refusing to even meet Trump.

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    1. Tara, I was so shocked that he was doing this. It blindsided me.

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  5. What a beautiful piece. Your organization and explanations pulled me in and your raw emotion really made me think. I agree with you about the inappropriateness of asking this poor woman to be a part of this act. My thoughts are with you.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate them.

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  6. Such a beautiful post on both personal and political levels. As a widow myself I can so relate to what you are saying. I chose not to watch the speech so I didn't see the event live, but reading about it over the news I was saddened by her presence, in sharp contrast to her father in laws strong criticism. And I agree that in the grief of the time how can she make any decisions.
    Thank you also for your vulnerability. This widow road is never easy.

    By the way I LOVE your grief collage. I want to explore the picture further.

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    1. Christine, thanks. I'm sorry to read you too are a widow. I later learned about the service man's father's objections. Why would anyone want to add pain to what is already extraordinary grief. I'm sure Trump will say something debasing about the father if he hasn't already.

      The collage is special as it contains writing from my husband's journal.

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  7. You cut deep to the heart of Trump's manipulation of Mrs. Owen's pain, grief and suffering. She was abused, used for his own up-lifting. Such agonizing grief should not be put on such display. Very powerful slice.

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    1. It amazes me that the whole country isn't outraged.

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  8. And what a powerful piece of artwork Mary Ann. Stunning.

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    1. Thank you. The collage is special as I embedded sections of text written by my husband.

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  9. It was a shameful event, and I found it hard to see Ms. Owens there in a cone, alone really. We can't really know her, and if it meant something to her personally, grasping at anything she could that might help. Your piece is heartfelt for her, Mary Ann, a nice thing to write.

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  10. Mary Ann there is so much wisdom as you also share so much grief and pain. This president . . .

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  11. You are right, we cannot know what is going through anyone's mind after suffering a loss such as this. I can sense how painful this was for you to write as well. Truly powerful writing/

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  12. So much wisdom and grief. My heart is with you in the pain you feel. I so agree - this is not the way to support those who have lost a love one.

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    1. I also thought about her children who will be able to watch this as they get older. It will be public forever.

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  13. Are these pieces your original art? I am just figuring this out. Very strong work- I will be following to see more.

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    1. Yes, all the art is work I have made. I love to create.

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  14. Hi Mary Ann,
    I watched this young widow as well on Tuesday night as I returned back to the silence of my apartment and took on the start of jet lag. I couldn't help up feel for her... that she was being used as part of the Donald's new reality show. It was too painful to watch her...
    Bonnie

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    1. I thought of you as I wrote.
      Welcome home.

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  15. I could not watch. I listened to commentary. He's a classless coward. And those who coach his moves are equally so. A tragedy on so many levels.

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    1. He is classless. He is a coward. Shirking his responsibilities as president and blaming President Obama and then the generals. Ugh.

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  16. Thank you for sharing this amazingly power message and your insight.

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    1. Thank you for taking to read and respond. Appreciate both.

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