Friday, September 12, 2008

Pain and Suffering

It was riveting, disgusting and horrifying. It was hard to watch and harder not to. It was compelling in the most awful sense of the word. It was unforgettable and yet something that we all wish was not part of our collective memory. We were all there and we all lived it. Yet the only reason we are here was because we were not there.

As I watched the 102 minutes that reshaped our view of ourselves and the world forever, I found myself reacting more intensely than I thought I would 7 years later. Yet, what struck me as I watched the grief pour out in front of me was a thought that repeated itself over and over. The pain and suffering that I was witnessing is not a scene that is uniquely ours. While we would believe that because it happened to us, it was an American tragedy of epic proportion, the sad reality of our world is that this scene, in different scope and context, is repeating itself over and over in other arenas.

As I listened to the anguished voices of those staring out at the grotesque world glowering in front of them; as I listened to those enveloped by the blackness that descended upon them, gasping for breath; as I recoiled at the images that were parading before my eyes as I sat in my remote safe environment, I couldn't help but realize that there were others around the globe who had experienced, and continue to experience these nightmares on a recurring basis. It is unfathomable to try to know the depths of the pain that must live within these people, as they watch and wait for their world to explode at any moment.

How can war and killing be the right answer ? How can we react to our tragedy and not empathize with the tragedies of others? How can we not know what it must feel like to be the family of one who is suddenly gone forever, whether the loss is sustained in New York city or in other parts of the world that we somehow feel removed from emotionally? We have to understand intellectually that they undergo the same range of emotions that we do, that they feel the loss as much as we do, that they grieve like we grieve. We must understand that they feel the same need to lead a civilized and meaningful life that we do.

So as we stand as one and say we will never forget, I have to ask myself exactly what that means. Does it mean that we are justified in inflicting what seems sometimes to be indiscriminate pain based, if the ugly truth be known, on our sense of moral outrage? I know that there is a feeling in many that war is somehow patriotic, but I have a very hard time accepting that as a concept that is appropriate. When I see the pictures of the events of 7 years ago, when I hear the voices crying out, when I touch those covered in remnants of what was, when I smell the melting remains of the great skyscrapers, when I feel the shaking in every part of my being, I know that for everyone, everywhere, there have to be better answers.

I am not a religious person but if I pray for anything, it would be for guidance. As we walk blinded through the rubble, we look for the first hint of light to take us out of the nightmare. 7 years later, I am not that we have seen the light yet.

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