Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The terrible cost, not just in Boston

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the explosion at the Boston Marathon earlier this week. And of the thirty people who were killed in Kandahar when a wedding was bombed. And of the university chancellor who was kidnapped and murdered a few days ago. It seems like every day we turn on the news and see more deaths, more senseless loss of life.

The saddest part was talking to my Afghan colleagues about Boston and hearing him say, “I'm sorry people died, but I'm not sorry that they get to know what this is like.”

I couldn't believe it, and yet, I could. Someone else commented that no one cares when ten kids are killed in Afghanistan, but when one dies in America, it's headline news, and it's not fair.

He's right. It's not fair. Death, especially the senseless, terrible death that sometimes seems so common, is never fair and never understood. It's not fair that we don't feel outraged every time a child dies, no matter where, no matter how. Our threshold for bad news can only stretch so far, and there comes a point when we have to train ourselves not to feel so deeply for the victims of each headline, but my heart mourns for all of those who have died without so much as a headstone to remember their life. It's sad that people all over the world are dying unnecessarily, and it's a shame that the rest of the world doesn't cry out in constant outrage over their deaths.

But at the same time, my co-worker's comment was frightening. What does it solve, wishing more pain and death on others? It won't bring back any of the children who have died in the years of bloodshed that Afghanistan has gone through. It won't change the past. It'll only make more families grieve, more children lose their chance at a future, more lives are wasted for no good reason.

And that sort of thinking only puts more obstacles in the way of true peace. As long as we keep wishing death on one another, death on one another's innocents, we will never be able to get along. How can we? Peace requires understanding and the ability to consider the terrible cost exacted by your fighting. If you see the other side as someone who deserves your bullets, someone who isn't good enough to warrant the right to life, someone inferior, then of course you will feel justified in bombing their children. It's the 3/5 Compromise all over again; the slaves aren't 'fully human,' so their suffering doesn't count. From the Roman Empire to the Rwandan genocide, from Genghis Khan to 9/11, we've seen what happens when we let divisions- be they ethnic, sexual, national, or any other- give one group license to see themselves as more human, more worthy, than any other. We've seen the pain, the suffering, the terrible consequences. And yet we continue to let ourselves think this way.

When will it stop? How many more eight-year-olds must die for their parents to learn the lessons that history has striven so hard to teach us?

To those who lost loved ones in Boston, I'm sorry for your loss. To those who lost loved ones in Kandahar, or in Syria, or in Herat, or Bangalore- I'm sorry for your loss. 

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