After our meeting last week with a lawyer in San Antonio I had one last commitment to attend to on Friday before heading back to Dallas.
I met a friend in Center Point. We had one of the world's best hamburgers at Vicki's Burger Barn. From there we drove a mile down the road to the cemetery. I wanted to introduce her to my friend, Army Specialist James Kiehl, who returned to the Texas Hill Country to be buried in Center Point after he was killed in an ambush of his unit in Iraq in March of 2003.
I never met James in life. I was just another citizen of the Hill Country who knew he was missing and was hoping against hope that he was the one rescued alive from the ambush. I learned, at the same time everyone else did, that it was not our James who had survived, but Jessica Lynch.
James was given a heroes welcome back to the Texas Hill Country. He was laid to rest in the Center Point cemetery because he wanted to be in the company of so many of his heroes, the more than 30 Texas Rangers buried there. That's a high honor for a little unincorporated Texas town with less than 700 people in it and James knew it. He could have been buried in Arlington but he wanted to come home to be with us. I've had a lot of wonderful conversations with my friend James in the Center Point cemetery.
Most of them center around what I owe James for his service to our country. James took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign or domestic.
As I sat with my friend in the cemetery last Friday, on the little bench at the foot of James' grave I was reminded again of my responsibilities to him and all those like him who have given their lives in defense of the Constitution. I wrestled aloud, again, with something that has been bothering me since the war started in 2002. We have failed.
We have failed as a people to bring true freedom to the women of Iraq. My feminist friends in the Middle East have taken pains to inform me that polygamy was on its way out when we invaded. It was punished by Saddam's government. When we invaded, and put new men in power there, encouraging them to write their own democratic constitution, they slipped the "right" to polygamy right back in.
That means we have left the women of Iraq in a worse position than we found them. Yanar said 20% of the homeless population in "religious cities" is comprised of the abandoned women and children of polygamy. They now have less freedom and protection, not more.
I looked down at James' grave and shook my head, "We failed them. My friends in the Middle East know all about American polygamy now, and they've laughed at me and told me we are no different than them and our American Constitution is a joke for women, just as theirs is for them".
Some of the anger directed at me over the war, over Bush, over Texas itself has been tremendous. I can understand the anger and the hurt. I can also understand how they feel it was presumptuous of us to try to teach them "democracy".
What I cannot understand is sending James to the other side of the earth to defend the Constitution and then returning him to be buried on his own sacred soil, while leaving the Constitution undefended here.
The SCOTUS has repeatedly said the practice of polygamy is not a Constitutionally protected right. Yet we have two states which are completely corrupt to the criminal practice.
I have said over and over that what I saw up in Utah and Arizona was the repeated violation of civil and human rights. The FLDS has finally been dumb enough to put many of those violations of civil and human rights into writing and even submit them into court documents, claiming the abuse as a "religious right".
What separates this domestic interpretation of the divine right to own and abuse women from the Middle Eastern view, which is also the divine right to own and abuse women?
Until the Feds wake up and start enforcing the Constitution in those two states there is no hope for the women there.
Texas, however, has a choice. Texas is in a position, right now, to say no to the spread of the human rights abuse of polygamy in our state.
There is little I can do to protect the women of the Middle East. There is little I can do to protect the women of Utah and Arizona. There is, however, a lot I can do to protect the women of Texas.
I feel I owe that to James. That's why I keep going back to visit him. I like to sit with him, pay my respects and make sure he understands he will always be remembered for his sacrifice and it was not in vein, because those he left behind will continue to remember what it was all really about.
Perhaps the one thing Texas can do that no other state has done yet, is to make women and children safe from the illegal practice of cultural polygamy here.
Texas can be a free state for women, not a concubine state for them. That's something we can do to honor James and all those like him, who died defending our Constitution because they didn't believe it was just a joke for women.