Kissing the President

Thomas Graham is a soldier from north Georgia who went to Baghdad to fight Iraqis and terrorism. On a hot July day last summer, during his second tour of duty, a bomb exploded on the road he was traveling, killing two of his fellow soldiers immediately. Graham, back home in the States, is now no longer an able-bodied soldier fighting terrorism. He is missing part of his body. Disabled and currently unemployed, Graham wakes up every morning with prosthetic limbs where his feet and legs used to be.On his flight back to the US, before his mother gave up her job to spend months with him at Walter Reed Hospital, Graham and his fellow soldiers were greeted with a surprise guest waiting for them on the tarmac. It was their president, their commander-in-chief, their leader, and as the plane landed, President Bush greeted his soldiers, shaking hands and making small talk with his troops returning home.

At one point, he even leaned down and kissed the shaved head of Thomas Graham. Graham, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, got a laugh out of the kiss. "I thought that was pretty funny,'' he said.

I believe this kiss is the kiss of Judas, a tragic betrayal and warped perversion that leads us to believe that it is this president who may bestow blessing and healing upon his soldiers. The day must come when the president and all the war-makers must stoop upon the ground, with the knees of their pin-striped suits dirty in the mud, and beg for forgiveness, blessing and healing, cursing themselves for ever thinking they had the authority to grant this upon others.

In other words, we need the soldiers to kiss us.

The kiss symbolizes a blessing of sorts, and in our patriarchal and hierarchical society, it is always those at the top of the ladder, living in the high-rises, working in white houses and pentagons, that do the kissing, that impart blessing. It is the same dynamic that creates and wages war, an anti-democratic system where the bugles are blown from Washington, yet the bodies are buried in poor country, USA.

Where are Thomas Graham's feet and legs, after all? They are lost, somewhere, on the ground, in a ditch in the desert, a symbol for the millions of Americans who are disenfranchised, destitute and dehumanized.

Gay Americans, homeless Americans, minority Americans, these Hispanic-Americans we call ''illegal'', these are the people to whom we need to drop on bended knee, with head bowed, and ask for their kiss, ask for their blessing. The oppressed, not the oppressors, grant the blessing, and as the radical tomes of liberation theology proclaim, God's favor rests on the downtrodden, not the mighty.

The presidents and war-makers will soon lose their legs and feet as well, their blood-stained house of cards bound to collapse. Yet in their place, we must nail down the foundations of true democracy, and cast away the damnable illusion that electing leaders and, as Thoreau said, resigning our conscience to those in Washington is proper civics. We must begin to look down, not up, to find our heroes, to find those worthy of bestowing a blessing upon the lot of us.

It is the height of folly and arrogance to bend low to kiss the disabled, injured, aching soldier.

We need them to bless and forgive those of us who take their legs from them.

David Cook is a teacher and journalist out of Chattanooga, TN, working through a master's degree in Social Justice. He has written for the Times-Free Press for four years and currently writes for the

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