If I was the parent of one of the 37 children killed by the Israeli bomb that hit the Lebanese town of Qana last night, the least I’d expect from the citizens of the country whose President and Secretary of State see no need for a cease fire that would have saved the lives of those innocents is this:
A tear. Better, lots of them.
Have we forgotten how to cry?
Sometimes it takes a talented writer to remind us of what it means to be human. (Are you paying attention, George and Condoleezza?). I’ve just finished reading “God Laughs & Plays” by David James Duncan, author of “The River Why.”
I invite you to read this excerpt. And weep.
Duncan is telling the story of a nurse, Gerri, who went on her fourth mission of mercy to Iraq in May 2002.
Before this recent trip—amid all the American flag waving and war rumblings—Gerri’s oldest daughter tried to persuade her to stay home. Gerri didn’t describe their discussion, but she did say that, after finally accepting Gerri’s sense of mission, daughter offered mother an old-souled piece of advice. “If you do go” she said, “be completely present, wherever you go.”
These words returned to Gerri in May 2002, in an Iraqi hospital virtually bereft of medicine and hope. While her group moved from bed to bed, Gerri approached a woman sitting next to her dying child. Gerri speaks no Arabic. The woman spoke no English. Trying to be “present” anyway, Gerri looked at the child, then at the mother, and placed her right hand over her own heart.
The Iraqi mother placed her right hand over her own heart.
Gerri’s eyes and the mother’s eyes simultaneously filled with tears.
The hospital was crowded. Gerri’s visitation time was short. She started to move to the next bed, but then remembered her daughter’s words: “completely present.” She and the mother were already crying, their hands over their hearts. There was nothing Gerri could do, despite her medical training, for the child. “How much more present,” she wondered, “is it possible to be?”
She stepped forward anyway. With no plan but vague allegiance to the commandment, “completely present,” the nurse without medicine stepped toward the bed of the dying child and inconsolable mother. She then put both of her hands out, palms up.
The Iraqi mother fell into her arms.
“If only this experience were unique!” Gerri told me. “But I can’t tell you, any longer, how many mothers I’ve now held in this same way.”
Her voice grew faint over the phone.
I heard: “…diseases that children would almost never die from in the U.S….”
I heard: “…medicine so basic…”
Then her voice faded, or maybe I drowned it out. I’ve never taken interview notes while sobbing before.
Yes, let's shed a tear for them and put blame where it belongs: on those who use them as shields for their aggressive attacks.
Let's also shed a tear for the latest victims of Islamist violence: women staffing a Jewish Seattle and Indian pilgrims attacked in Kashmir.
Unfortunately, the habitual war crimes of Hizbollah and its like get ignored. They act to ensure the greatest number of civilian deaths on both sides, which is the tactic of Arab terrorists since time immemorial. Why is the world not outraged at them?
Posted by: Idler | July 31, 2006 at 07:36 AM
The world is outraged at them, Idler, but they act like savages and we expect them to act like that. It's when we act that way that we should be the most outraged. Nobody even knows that Hezbollah was hiding there. Were they there when the whole family was killed on the beach at the beginning of all of this. What is sickening is to see our side justifying torture of people who may have committed no crimes, having an emphasis on saving embryos that won't survive anyway while not caring that innocent women and children are being slaughtered in Lebanon.
In the case of Hezbollah, the more that we learn, they appear to be revolutionaries like we had in this country at one time. Our Native Americans fought guerilla warfare style also because when you are weak, you don't have choices for how to do it. I don't defend them though as they are hate filled and that never can be right, nor do I blame Israel as I know they have tried a lot of ways to find peace but some say that they aren't all doing that and some have deliverately stoked up trouble in secret. I don't know the truth of any of it, but do believe we can't look aside when innocents are killed by 'our' side. How could we then claim to be different if we didn't shed a tear over mothers losing their children.
Good comments, Brian, and I loved 'The River Why,' a book I would always rank at the top of my favorite books. I had meant to read his new one but got sidetracked, this was a good reminder.
Posted by: Rain | July 31, 2006 at 08:34 AM
Did the American revolutionaries "act like savages" as you acknowledge Hizbollah to act? Very strange commentary.
Something you might want to reflect on is that there is far greater loss of civilian life going on in Africa, and yet that's not important. Somehow the public relations wheels only start turning when Israel uses force.
Another thing worth reflecting on is that the European ground campaign (the air campaign is a different matter) during WWII resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties, even though neither side had a predilection for using civilians to shield their operations. All of those casualties were the result of pursuing war in Europe, many were the direct result of Allied munitions. Would you characterize the Allies as having "tortured" those civilians caught in the crossfire? Would you have insisted that it was immoral to fight the Nazis, knowing that civilian casualties would have inevitably ensued?
The fact is that Hizbollah uses civilians as shields so that they can play on the sympathies of people like you. You buy right into it, encouraging such tactics.
Posted by: Idler | July 31, 2006 at 10:11 AM
I refuse to take responsibility for what someone else does and won't let someone put it onto me because I am saying that killing innocents is never okay-- not in any war. And if you thought the Revolutionary war was fought with some kind of special rules, reread your history. Both sides did kill innocents. It's war and it's ugly but it doesn't mean any of us have to say it's okay or justified because the other side did it. Right now if anyone says there is something we are doing that is not right (bush is prime example) right away they are equated with being terrorist supporters. The side you are buying into, Idler, is dangerously approaching fascism and suppression of any opinion but their own. If they succeed, you won't win what you think you will. What Brian said here was cry for those who suffer and what you said is you know for sure it's the fault of somebody besides those who did the killings. I don't think you or anybody else knows for sure anything that is going on over there and tears for the suffering only show humanity still exists. When we stop caring, we are no different than they are and when we cannot express our different viewpoints, we have lost the freedom here we claimed to be trying to bring over there
Posted by: Rain | July 31, 2006 at 10:20 AM
I don't disagree with Brian's sentiments.
Nor do I think the Revolutionary War was free of atrocities. That said, a comparison of the American revolutionaries to Hizbollah is ridiculous.
I'm not saying you're a terrorist supporter, but I do assert that you allow yourself to be manipulated by terrorists.
What you say about fascism and suppression of opinion is utter nonsense. Criticism of what someone says is not the suppression of free speech, it IS free speech.
In WWII, the allies considered the loss of human life tragic and tried to minimize it. Nevertheless, they believed that the Nazi forces had to be defeated. Similarly, the Israelis feel their security depends on dealing Hizbollah a serious blow. They are justified in attacking their attackers, and they are proceding well within the rules of warfare delineated in the Geneva Conventions.
The only people who could possibly be happy about the loss of non-combatant lives in Lebanon is Hizbollah, which seeks to maximize civilian casualties on both sides.
Posted by: Idler | July 31, 2006 at 10:42 AM