We Cannot Remain Immune


As I have done every day for the past two school years, I took care of my granddaughter today.

My beloved, sassy, funny, incredibly beautiful Ellie was here with me on this cold April morning. Her sweet baby brother, Johnny, was here, too.

Just as I do every day, I picked them up and brought them into my house. I settled them down to play in the living room, surrounded by all of their familiar toys. I went into my well stocked kitchen and made them a nice healthy breakfast. I sat with them, laughing and smiling as two year old Ellie chattered on about her imaginary friends and Johnny used both hands to fill his mouth with pancakes and blueberries.

When breakfast was over, I cleaned them both up, popped the dishes into my dishwasher, and got out some clothes for the day. We got dressed, we brushed hair, we made a plan for the day.

Because we live in Massachusetts, we sometimes watch a movie in the morning. It is too cold and snowy to go outside, and our indoor activities are a bit limited. So I settled Ellie in front of the TV to watch “Leap” and I put Johnny on the rug with his favorite cars and balls and drums.

And I opened my laptop to check on the news.

I saw the images from the Syrian gas attack.

640px-Ghouta_massacre4

I saw a tiny girl, probably two years old. Her hair was dark brown, like my Ellie’s. It curled around her face, just as Ellie’s does. Her eyes were closed, and the lashes that brushed her cheeks were long and dark.  

She looked just like my Ellie, when she sleeps so safely in my bed, her pink cheek resting on my pillow.

But her eyes were closed in death. Her cheeks were ashen.  Her body was still.

And my heart almost stopped.

I looked at her. I couldn’t look away.

I could feel the smooth texture of the skin on her tender chest. I could imagine, so clearly, the smell of her curly dark hair. I swear to you, I could hear her peals of laughter.

She must have had a grandmother who adored her. She must have had a mother who looked at her and asked the universe how it was possible for one human to be so inexpressibly lovely. She must have had a father who swelled with pride at each of her achievements. And a grandpa who turned into a puddle of foolish love whenever she turned that sweet face toward him.

Were they all dead,?I wondered.  Was this little baby alone in her death, or did all of those who loved her so much die with her as the poison filled their home?

And I started to sob. I tried to hold it in, to let my own little ones continue to play in the innocence of an American morning. But I must have made a sound, because Ellie turned to look at me, her dark, dark eyes finding mine. “Nonni, why are you sad?”, she asked.  I had no answer.

So I picked her up in my right arm, and settled her against my chest. I pulled little Johnny into my left arm, and held them both against my body. They squirmed and giggled, as little ones do when they are pinned in the arms of a grownup.

I leaned my face into them. I smelled the soft, clean, tender smell of their hair. I kissed the satin of their necks. I felt them breathing.

And I realized that THIS is why I will never again believe in an omniscient God who rewards us for living well.  I will never ever believe in a deity who chooses who should live or die.

Because that beautiful little girl who died horribly was just as joyful and as lovely and as valuable as my own beloved girl. Her parents were no doubt just as loving and as good as my daughter and her husband. Her grandparents must have felt the same overwhelming love that we feel about our grandchildren.

I have to wonder. How can it be that humanity has lived this long without learning anything? How have we come to a place where we can visit other planets, solve the riddles of DNA, understand the workings of nature, yet we haven’t figured out a way to stop slaughtering our babies?

I refuse to believe that there is nothing we can do to stop this. I refuse to accept that our only recourse would be more death, more war, more killing, more dead beautiful babies lying in the arms of their dead parents.

If we can solve the riddles of genetic mutations, we can solve the riddle of human violence. If we can find a way to split and atom and find a way to destroy our planet, we can find a way to stop these mass murders.

Maybe we all need to see images of dead babies who look just like our own.

I don’t know.

But this can’t be the best that humanity can achieve.

 

Tempest Tossed


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

No words of mine could possibly say it more eloquently.  THIS is the true spirit of the United States of America.  I am so saddened to see that my own Governor, Charlie Baker, and so many other elected leaders, have chosen to ignore these words.

That moral high ground.


603733_10200837417355233_1874374034_nI have changed my thinking since my last post, mostly because I have had many conversations with people who are smarter and more thoughtful than I am.

I’ve been reading, and talking, and watching and listening, and I have come to the conclusion that it simply makes no sense at all to kill as a punishment for killing.  I have come to realize that, once you take away the carefully crafted rhetoric about “moral imperatives” and “red lines” and “humanity”, you simply cannot justify the lobbing of missiles into a sovereign nation.

I was beginning to come to that conclusion after listening to friends who believe in peace.  I was brought even closer when I saw images of protestors marching against the upcoming attack.

But what really brought me to the realization that it would be entirely wrong for the US government to bomb Syria was the talk that I heard on the radio about the “moral high ground.”

The argument in favor of bombing went something like this: “The United States has always held the moral high ground against the slaughter of innocents. If we turn our backs on the use of chemical weapons, we will lose our right to lay claim to that high ground.”

And my reaction was something like this: “Say, WHAT?!”

My government has been using unmanned drones to drop bombs on suspected terrorists all over the Middle East.  Even when those suspects are sitting at local cafes.  Even when they are at home, surrounded by their families.  Even when they haven’t had any kind of a trial or even been arrested.

According to a study by Stanford and NY Universities,

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

My government knows that it has killed nearly as many civilians than the admittedly horrifying chemical weapons attack committed by Bashar Al Assad.  And yet it tries to lay claim to the “moral high ground” in order to justify the use of Tomahawk Missiles in retaliation for the killing of civilians.

An attack in which there is no doubt at all that more civilians will be killed.

So I have come off the fence, and I have landed squarely on the side of peace.

I have written to my state Senators and Representatives as well as the White House.  I have expressed my opinion.

Next I think I need to get myself out onto those streets to protest what I see as an act that can absolutely lay claim to the moral low ground.

 

No Easy Answers


msyria

I am one of those people who almost always have an opinion.   I am a news junky, and a foreign affairs addict.  I listen to political talk radio every day on my 35 mile commute to work.

Its usually easy for me to express my views on any and every political situation.  NSA spying?  Bad.  Edward Snowdon? Good.   ObamaCare? Good.  Sequester? Bad.  Stop and Frisk? Bad, bad, bad!!!!  Occupy Wall Street?  Good, at least for a while.

You get the idea.

My father once told me that I seemed to have opinions even on topics I knew nothing about. He was pretty much right: I could take the smallest fact and turn it into a political position.  I was kind of proud of that, actually.

Now, though, I am truly of two minds.   I find myself profoundly glad that I don’t have to be the one to make a decision about how to react to the situation in Syria.

For the most part, I agree with Rand Paul, who says that the US should use its military might only to protect direct national interests, and only if all other options have been tried.  Like just about every other American I know, I am sick of war. I am tired of checking on those whose children and brothers and husbands have been deployed.  Tired of seeing the names of the dead on the news.  I am tired of knowing that billions of dollars a month (a week? a day?) are going toward those war efforts and that in spite of those dollars, soldiers are still being injured and killed.

Mostly, I am a pacifist.  I believe in diplomacy. I believe that if the US really worked hard in negotiations with Syria’s allies (Russia, China, even Iran), we could peacefully pry Bashar Al Assad out of office and end this terrible civil war.

But how long would that take, and how many more civilians would be gassed in the meantime?

And that is where I run smack into my internal conflict.

I recently visited the National Jewish American History Museum in Philadelphia.  I enjoyed the exhibits about immigration, the industrial revolution, Jewish culture in America.  But I was brought to tears by a film that featured an old man, a former American Soldier who had been one of the men who liberated the camp at Dachau.  He talked about what he saw there; rooms full of human hair, boxes filled with human teeth, mass graves filled with the bones of his fellow humans.  And he talked about the faces of those who were still living when the camp was liberated. The film showed us those faces; hopeless, horrified, their huge eyes staring out at us, asking why it took us so long to get there.

And the old veteran, wiping tears from his own eyes fifty years after he became a witness to the horror, told the filmmaker, “It isn’t enough to remember and to think, ‘Never again.’  It isn’t enough to feel bad.  We have to act. We have to demand that it never happens again.”

And therein lies my sense of conflict.