Today I mailed 27 pairs of kids’ shoes and a soccer ball to Iraq.

I know that there are American soldiers willing to beat and humiliate captured Iraqis, but there is one I don’t know who wrote home to a friend of a friend’s wife asking her to send the shoes their kids had outgrown in his next care package because Iraqi children need them.

I think he must be a remarkable man.

We hear a lot of rhetoric these days about Evil and Freedom. I believe in Big Ideals and love those on which my country was founded, but I believe that ideals are reached, not by unilateral gesture or presidential vendetta, but by the humble and practical consideration of Us for Them.

So I asked around and ended up with 27 pairs of shoes: baby booties, sandals, church shoes, two pairs of Doc Martens, but mostly sneakers; and I bought a soccer ball.

If we would facilitate Peace and Democracy in foreign lands, the path of the toppled statue dragged through streets will not lead us there, only to Abu Ghraib jail. I believe we reach the Ideal on the dusty road of practical daily life, the small and real, not from the top down in broad gestures- invasion, incursion, insurgence, but from one person to another, individual, with small understandings. If a soldier can reach out in-country, I will help him not reach empty-handed.

I know I make myself ridiculous with my pathetically tiny gesture, but I’d rather be a daring fool than a constant nag and my only other course of action is to bitch endlessly. My country has chosen a path I will not walk, but in it, I am still free enough to choose my own way. I will direct my energy, my money and my hope down an obscure trail marked by a man without political aspirations.

I hope that there are more soldiers like my friend’s friend’s husband. I hope other small steps taken by American soldier/fathers towards Iraq’s children are enough to show the compassionate there that the people here are worth walking towards, despite the flailing and knashing of our head of state. I hope there can be another path, different from the one down which so many lives and resources have been washed away- a path towards Peace. It is path we must choose despite media overgrowth and fashionable despair. It is a path we choose in the face of marches forced in the opposite direction by our leaders and our prison guards alike. It is a path that will be walked (I dare to hope) by their children’s feet in our children’s shoes.

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