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Posts Tagged ‘war’

Ten years ago today I was on a sofa in North Carolina staring into the beautiful eyes of my granddaughter who had just passed her first month on earth. My daughter had handed her into my care so she could get a bit more sleep and I was about as content as I’ve ever been with perfect, tiny fingers grasping one of mine as the baby girl dozed in my arms.

I lunged for the phone when it rang, hoping my daughter wouldn’t be disturbed, and was surprised, yet happy, to hear my son’s voice on the other end. It was very early in California, an unexpected time for him to be calling the East Coast.

“Mom,” he said, interrupting my queries as to what the heck had him up at the crack of dawn. “Turn on the TV.”

Tucking the phone under my chin and the baby against my chest, I fumbled for the remote to the huge set and clicked.

Of course everyone saw what I saw.

“What the fuck is happening?” I asked Jaren.

“We’re under attack, Mom.”

The second plane came in before I’d managed to absorb anything but terror, and like the rest of America the only words that came to mind were: Oh my god!

The juxtaposition of realities … the new life in my arms, the new horror in New York … could only compound the distress.

“What sort of world do you have now, Baby?” I asked.

Part of the answer I knew then: her world was one in which people drove planes into buildings full of other people.

In efforts to try to gain perspective, I conjured an image of another woman at another time holding another newborn as a radio announced the attack on Pearl Harbor, that woman asking the same question I just had just posed to the cosmos.

The specter rising from that was World War III.

Over the 10 years between then and now that has not happened. We have not experienced mass conscription or concentrated conflict inflicting colossal damage across great swathes of the developed world or food rationing or bombs dropping on our beds or that-country-against-this-country, but rather sporadic terrorist attacks and religious fanaticism and fear.

Civil wars and oppression and human rights abuses continue as they always have, people starve and fight and kill and rape and poverty breeds the hungry, the uneducated and the dangerous while wealth motivates those hungry for power and equally dangerous. While many strive to survive, others do what they can to protect, to inspire, to effect change for the positive to varying degrees of success and failure.

The world of my granddaughter turns out to be not much different, in human terms, than the one my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother … and so on … and I were born into — a world where people perform deeds of great kindness and acts of almost unimaginable horror.

No, my granddaughter will not be able to sling on a backpack equipped with a Swiss army knife and a couple of pints of contact lens solution then board a plane like I did. She’ll learn to travel without belts in slip-on shoes and allow 3 hours for check-in. She’ll probably never sip a cocktail in a rooftop bar overlooking a major city without at least some trepidation. She may look askance at those who dress and worship differently and choose to surround herself with the familiar for illusions of safety.

History will show her that paradigms shift, that deadly enemies, the evils incarnate, eventually become familiar trading partners no matter how dissimilar they may be in look and faith and culture and background as it absorbs the dead and those imprinted with images of fire and smoke and collapsing monoliths full of humanity pass along.

We no longer tremble at the thought of Japanese or Germans, no matter the price they exacted from the world only a bit more than half a century ago in their bids to accomplish their goals, but have contextualized the horrors and moved beyond as we comprehend new evil, new enemies,

This is how we humans do things. This is how we have always done things, and it’s history that dictates wrong from right as it divides winners from losers.

What will be far different for the children born with the rubble and toxic dust of the Twin Towers in their path are the impacts of events less dramatic in the making but much more in outcome and harder to live with — the results of the relentless attack of man on the planet.

There is no template for putting the climate back together after an onslaught, for negotiating a truce between rising seas and inundated land. No reconciliation can be won once patterns of weather are so drastically changed that the seas no longer function as Earth’s lungs.

Reparations will be futile and even discussion of them will set human against human, as will attempts to share out slices of the ever-diminishing pie. Once again, wars will be waged and many will die, a circumstance that will relieve a bit of Earth’s burden, but when she’s too wounded to carry on we’re done and all fights are over.

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May You Live In Interesting TimesHappy 12th of March 2011.

Today is not a holiday that I know of, nor does it mark any specific event. Nope. It just happens to be a Saturday in Seychelles that found me thinking we’re not even a quarter of the way through the year yet, but OH! what an amazing amount of shit has already gone down.

We’re 71 days into 2011 … SEVENTY-ONE DAYS … and already the world has been burning and flooding and rocking and rolling and … well, you know.

Should we be surprised when the first 12 days brought at least:

* Earthquake magnitude 6.9 Argentina-January 1

* Earthquake magnitude 5.2 – Southern XinJiang, China-January 1

* Earthquake 7.1 magnitude Chile-January 2

* More Than 1,000 Dead Birds Fall From Sky in Arkansas-January 2

* Dead fish cover 20-mile section of Arkansas River-January 2

* Uganda yellow fever outbreak kills more than 40-January 3

* Earthquake Near Japan Triggers Tsunami Warning-January 3

* Powerful earthquake hits south-east Iran-January 3

* Earthquake 7.0 magnitude hits northern Argentina-January 3

* Hundreds of dead blackbirds found in Louisiana-January 3

* 10,000s of Birds found dead in Manitoba-January 3

* Thousands of Birds fall from the sky in South America-January 3

* Major Flood in Rockhampto,Australia-January 3

* Dead Birds Found In Kentucky-January 4

* 100 tons of dead fish wash up on Brazil’s shores-January 4

* Hundreds of dead birds found in East Texas-January 5

* Dead birds in Sweden, millions of dead fish in Maryland, Brazil and New Zealand-January 5

* Shift of Earth’s magnetic north pole affects Tampa airport-January 5

* 40,000 crabs found dead on England beaches-January 6

* Heavy floods leave at least 35 dead in Brazil-January 6

* Earthquake 4.5 magnitude in California-January 12

* Huge Waves Destroy Homes in E. Indonesia-January 12

Since then we’ve had floods and fires in Australia and the Middle-Atlantic states of America, monster snow storms in the US and Europe, and far too many earthquakes, including the February devastation in New Zealand and what’s happening right now in Japan.

The shaky ground in Northern Africa and the Middle East came with less warning than the tenuous quake predictions we’ve grown accustomed to, but the damage is huge and the aftershocks will continue for a long time, and although civil war in Africa is no surprise, what’s happening now in Ivory Coast is still a bit of a shocker. And, of course there’s Libya.

That it’s just now that thirty-seven priests are busted in Philadelphia for sex abuse almost figures, but adding it to the ever-growing pile of daily crap going on makes it all smell a bit worse.

Even all this is just a small piece of a much-submerged iceberg when it comes to the suffering going on in the world, and with the global media so busy covering what must be covered today, a lot of what else is going on, was going on, or will be happening soon is off the radar of most of us.

I can’t help having that assumed version of a Chinese curse come to mind:

寧為太平犬,不做亂世人

Translated commonly to go something like this:

May you live in interesting times.

(And by the way, this is thought to be one of three curses, the others being, “May you come to the attention of powerful people,” and, “May your wishes be granted.”)

Interesting times these are, and considering the fact we’re only 71 days into the year so far, my plan is to make the most of what I have, enjoy this lovely view and the ground being still beneath my feet, hope the sky doesn’t start raining dead birds and that we get through this year’s elections with nothing more going on than the usual grousing.

There are 294 days to go … so hang on with me and let’s see what happens on the rest of this ride, shall we?

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