By David Swanson
From the point of view of a corpse, Thursday’s die-in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol was overwhelming and diminishing. I was one of twenty some corpses lying dead in a river of blood in front of police and tourists and a color guard of Iraq veterans. I was one of a pile of corpses. You could have added or taken away a corpse or two, and nobody would have noticed. Thirty or forty other corpses were picked up inside the Capitol and taken to jail, and nobody noticed. And as I lay dead on the concrete, someone said the name of a dead Iraqi.
Then someone said the name of a dead U.S. soldier. Then someone said the name of a dead Iraqi. And they kept saying them. New names. Unique names. Unknown names. “Son of….” or “Woman and baby.” And as my flesh began to slowly rot in the sun, they read name after name after name, and they never stopped, and I understood that I was one corpse in a very large pile of corpses. And my mind would drift off, until the woman’s corpse beside me, which was crying, would say through its tears “We remember.” And another name would come. And a gong would ring. And her corpse would say “We remember.” And I have now to my eternal shame forgotten all but three of the names. I can remember more first names and last names but not how to pair them up. But as I lay dead I would remember the name I’d just missed and hear the next one and picture an image, and hear the next one and picture an image.
And I had time as the names were slowly and solemnly read, sometimes with their ages, sometimes with the name of their father or mother, I had time to picture an image. I saw a little Arab boy much older than my own boy but still just beginning to sense his way around what might have been a world if not for us. I saw parents who lost three children and I saw them shake and moan in helpless fury. And I saw soldiers and marines, male and female, many of them Latino. I saw what they were saying to their companions the day before they got their names on the list and their corpses on the pile. But eventually the images too grew to be too many and began to blur, and I pictured the same image for two different names, which could not possibly be right, although who was going to know? “We remember.” No, we don’t remember. We don’t remember. We do not remember. We never even knew. We’ve pre-forgotten.
Even the Capitol police thought there were too many corpses that day. Piles and piles of bloody corpses inside the Capitol. Crowds of black Americans demanding justice for 6 children in Jena, Louisiana, a place where they threaten black children with nooses, nooses that grow corpses on trees. And on Thursday, as most days, there were hundreds of corpses paid to work in the Capitol, creating a putrid stench and poorly serving the purpose of representing live human beings. But we were one small heap of corpses on the steps, with people standing all around, but even the police not caring, not pretending our dead flesh represented a threat to national security. And the names flowed on and on and on.
And then, as I knew theoretically must eventually happen, the names stopped. And then someone announced that the names had only been a small fraction of the list. The pile of corpses I pictured now could have stretched down the steps, filled the reflecting pool with a pile eight-corpses deep, and continued down the mall to the Washington Monument, surrounding it and piling halfway up around it. Each of the over one-million corpses was, like me, one corpse in a small pile somewhere. But, unlike any of them, I sat up, and the corpses around me sat up, and seven corpses tried to walk up the Capitol steps but were handcuffed by several dozen police officers. And while the police were protecting our national morgue from corpses, the people around held peace signs and sang. And some shouted: “You’re arresting the wrong people!” “Arrest Bush!” “Arrest Cheney First!”
A man walking by shouted “Win the War!” and I instinctively turned and shouted “You look under 42!” and he kept walking, and I hope he does. I do not want his name added to any list.