I Wear the Mask

 (Written after the experience of a morning in a Bread and Puppet Mourning Woman puppet)

I wear the mask.

I wear the mask of a woman I do not know, but I know her pain, her loss, her anger, her pride.

I wear the mask of a woman torn in two about her own country and what it does to its own people, a woman who is oppressed by those who govern her.

I wear the mask of a woman who desperately wants peace and a new way of living, who knows that there are other ways of living, but isn’t sure what, or how.

The only difference is, today, that mask has the face of an Iraqi woman.

I stand dressed in black, looking out through the eyes of this woman I have never met. I invite her to see that not all Americans look upon her as someone who needs to be rescued, who by very nature of the country is from, see her as “less than” or evil. I invite her to see that there are those who are fighting for her right to live.

And she invites me to hold her hand, her heart, to feel the weight she carries. To feel the weight of not knowing what is happening in her own country, but knowing that in the end, she will lose friends, family, loved ones. Knowing that Saddam has oppressed, but there is no certainty that who comes next will be any better.

I stand here, this morning, in Vermont, looking at the sun glint off of the cars driving by, and realize that we are not so different, this woman and I.

I feel her grief over the loss of her loved one, and I know this pain, this emptiness. I feel her fear. Feel her anger at what we are doing to her country, her people, her land, her family. Feel her want for a new way of life. Feel her desires to be heard, to be seen.

We mourn together, she for her family and I for mine. We hold each other in silence, compassion and love. And I know that we are connected, though I may never know her name. I bend forward, bearing the burden of her loss, and my heart is heavy.

I know this woman and her pain. But I also know her strength, her pride. Her resolve. She is a survivor and she will again face the world.

I wear the mask – see this woman, know her, love her, respect her and protect her as you would me. I know this woman and she knows me. We are one.

– Published in Reclaiming Quarterly, Fall 2004

One Response to I Wear the Mask

  1. Joela says:

    hello i’m a studenty of Art and Gender studies, i am interest of putting these images on my final essay, do you have any information of them? i really need to know it, at least where this movement is and when these demonstrations were done. Thank you in advance. J.L.

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