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Security 

I’m a “security mom.” That’s what political strategists are calling the crucial swing vote of we moms who will choose with our hearts which candidate will make the world a safer place for our children. I guess I’ve been a security mom ever since I found out I was 5½ weeks pregnant in 1996. Actually, I was even one before that when I quit bumming monthly cigarettes and started taking sky-blue vitamins. I had been quitting for a decade, but to become a mother I went cold-turkey. I am pill-aphobic to this day, so swallowing vitamins the size of Pink Pearl erasers was definitely for the safety of my little tadpole. Myself, I prefer chewables.

It was for security that I bought a house, got a job, got a better job, got a still better job, left that evil job, and got my dream job. For security, I ditched my 12-year-old Toyota tin can (with a “No Fear” sticker) for a younger four-door (with a “Keep Austin Reading” sticker). For security, I moved all cleaning products and medications to a baby-friendly height of about 5 feet. I have to stand on tiptoe to get the aspirin. Security tells me to save 8% of my salary for retirement (to make up for my randy low-wage low-save years), get a pap smear, take the dog to the vet, check the oil, allow plenty of space between me and the car ahead, lock the front door, double-check the back door, and never ever give out my social security number.

Of course, I know that nothing in life is really “secure.” But the fact is that living in my neighborhood, being a citizen of this country, I am actually wallowing in a lake of safety. Aside from runaway trucks and a small family history of cancer on my husband’s side, my future and that of my family is all but guaranteed.

Security is having electricity when you need it. Security is being able to come home and know you won’t get car-jacked in your own driveway. Security is knowing that blood won’t run in the streets of your city, your local news reporter won’t die reporting the day’s news, and bombs won’t fall from the sky on people who are already wounded. Security is not being afraid to shop, go to work, send your kids to school, and visit friends without wondering if this moment is the very last time. Security is not having to stop at checkpoints, have your belongings searched over and over, your paperwork examined. To borrow from Janis Joplin, security is another word for nothing left to lose.

Faiza Jarrar is a security mom, too. But I bet cancer doesn’t even make her security worry list. As a wife, businesswoman, mother of two, and web blogger, Faiza is busy with everyday things like worrying about her son going away to college, weathering a disagreement with her husband, and cooking lasagna. But as an Iraqi in Baghdad, Faiza also concerns herself with why an American reader who supports “Bush and the Fox channel” is asking her why she only reports the bad things on her blog and not the good news. “If I have seen some good things,” she writes, “I would have told you, because I am more eager than you are for them.” Faiza worries about news agencies that report the violence and kidnappings, making heroes of criminals in a country in need of a whole new Justice League. Faiza fantasizes that the violence is extinguished and the super powers disappear and everything is left in the hands of ordinary people who will rebuild their lives and neighborhoods. In the interest of security—hers and that of her country—she brainstorms a proposal to a Kuwaiti relief organization to sell products made by poor Iraqi families. For security, she crosses checkpoints and submits to searches, attends meetings, translates between two languages and cultures, and writes almost every day about her life in a war zone.

Forgive us, Faiza.

In her blog, Faiza writes, “There is a parable that says: ‘They asked the Pharaoh, why have you become an unjust tyrant?’ And he said: ‘Nobody stopped me in my limits…’” Though Faiza uses this analogy to discuss an overbearing committee member, I borrow it now to apply to our president, to our government, to the frustration that builds and builds within me, powerless and useless, unheard and disobeyed. I’ve reached my limit.

Security moms of America, don’t be fooled. Your kids playing in the fenced backyard on manicured lawns are not really safe. Some day they will be investment bankers and administrative assistants and restaurant workers and their building will blow up or their plane will fall from the sky—or something worse we can’t even bear to imagine yet. While you grieve your indelible loss, someone else’s kids will be playing on a newly-graveled playground, running laps on a padded track, strapping on bicycle helmets and knee pads, enjoying the security of the ignorant, the rich, the selfish, the short-sighted, the scared.

"The weather has improved a lot in Baghdad, and in the morning, some nice, cool breezes come through the windows overlooking the garden,” Faiza wrote just a couple of weeks ago, reminding me that we share the same slight shift towards fall. “I will go to buy some new rose saplings for the coming season, by the will of GOD,” she continues. I am also planning my fall garden, having just pulled up all the desiccated plants of summer. The rest of her words echo in my heart and I read them over and over like a prayer: "We await winter impatiently…we shall wear heavy clothes, and watch rain pour upon us… How I love rain and miss it… I feel it washes the streets, the trees, and the buildings, and I wish it could wash darkness and hate from people's hearts… So that peace would prevail on earth…Amen."

To read more by Faiza Jarrar and her family: www.afamilyinbaghdad.blogspot.com
To volunteer to mobilize voters in swing states: http://calls.johnkerry.com
To donate to buy sewing machines, tools, soccer balls, medicine, and other peace-building tools: www.spiritofamerica.net
To keep up with the count of dead and wounded in Iraq: www.icasualties.org/oif and www.iraqbodycount.net
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Robin Bradford, an award-winning short story writer and essayist, has published in Brain, Child, Glimmer Train, and many other places. You can find her in two new anthologies -- Mother Knows: 24 Tales of Motherhood and Three-Ring-Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work and Family. Bradford works as a communications and development director for a nonprofit affordable housing provider in Austin. She lives with her husband and son, three cats and a dog in a tiny fifties house. Being the mother—of a child over the age of three!—is the best thing that ever happened to her. Visit her site at www.robinbradford.net

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