At the memorial mass of Captain Jason R. Hamill, there was a group of protesters. This did not surprise me, but the nature of their protest did. As I walked to the road, I saw what was written on their signs and I couldn't believe what I saw: "God Hates Your Tears", "Fags Doom Nations", and "The Only Good Soldier is a Dead Soldier", among other nasty sentiments. They stood there, singing the most awful songs, screaming the most hateful chants. Who were these people? Why did they come?
As I stood there, in awe, cop approached me.
"I'm just looking," I said.
"Are you related?" he asked.
"No I knew his brother."
I tried to say "this is awful," but instead I burst into tears.
The cop told me he was in the marines for 10 years, and his son was in Iraq. He was pretty upset too. I tried to say something, but instead, I hugged him, sobbing. To my surprise, he hugged me back. An act of defiance.
There was also a group of High School kids, standing with a big flag and signs that said "Peace" and "Love Our Troops". I thought they were cute and idealistic. I remember feeling like I too could change the world. I stood next to them, waiting to see the motorcycles. I knew they were coming and I wanted to see.
They came like a thunder storm, and for a few minutes, the sound of about 100 motorcycles drowned out the awful chants and songs. They parked their bikes and stood around the entrance. They called themselves the Patriot Guard Riders.
I walked up to them and asked them where they were from. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, they came from all around to deflect these awful people. They were a tough looking bunch, all in leather, some missing limbs (probably from Vietnam). I wasn't afraid of them though. I thanked them for coming. I then walked down to the Memorial Mass. This is what I saw on my way down the driveway:
I sat through the mass, my mind racing. I decided to paint some pictures. I hurried through them for the next couple of days. There has been an urgency about this whole group of paintings. I needed to finish them fast, and put them behind me. Can you tell it's been a a while since I've painted with watercolors?
Here they are:
By the way, if you'd like to know more about the protesters across the street, I will be happy to send you a link, just send me an email (put "protesters" as the subject). I will only reply to people I already know. I chose not to mention the name of the protesters on my blog, for fear of harassment - they are a nasty bunch, and I don't know if they seek out web pages that mention their name.
Also, here's the website of the Patriot Guard Riders: www.patriotguard.org - they'll come to any funeral they're invited to.