I am afraid to watch the television news at the moment. I am afraid of what I might see. I am afraid of the nightmares that might result. I am afraid of images that will burn into my brain and resurface at some time in the future. I am afraid to confront the reality of what is happening in the Middle East. I can’t seem to process what I am hearing and reading. I don’t know how to react or what to do about the horror that seems to be spreading through the region.
I don’t understand the politics of the area beyond the most simplistic outline of recent history. I don’t pretend to have any particular insight into the cultures of the Middle East. But what is going on right now in Syria, Gaza and Iraq in particular is beyond politics. It is beyond reason. There can be no excuses, no justification for the cruelty and the barbarism that has become rampant.
It began with the killing of children in Gaza. How can there ever be a reason to bomb a school? And it happened not once but at least twice. Day after day, week after week, we saw photos of these broken little innocent bodies as they lay dead or dying. This destruction not caused by some madman on a solo rampage but by a sovereign nation’s army. Big, well armed men, killing tiny children. How can that ever, ever be justified? It was evil when it was done by the provisional IRA bombing campaigns and it is wrong now. No matter what history has done to a people, no matter what injustices have been perpetrated against them, killing and maiming children is a war crime.
There is little worse in my mind than killing babies but the depravity of the violence in Iraq in recent days is just beyond comprehension. It’s like hearing the story line of some very violent and sick movie. I have skimmed reports that have mentioned crucifixion, beheading, and dogs feeding on bodies. I have seen reference to a photo of a young boy, the son of a fighter holding the head (just the head) of a man – the enemy. He is another young child who is lost to war. I have read about women being taken in large numbers to be sold or raped. I can’t do more than skim the reports because the detail is too shocking, too sickening, too upsetting.
And if that sounds like a very wimpish and, dare I say it, girly response that’s because it is.
The countries of Syria, Gaza and Iraq are populated by ordinary families and by women who are far more like me than they are different. Women who are mothers too and whose lives revolve around caring for their families and particularly their children, feeding them, loving them, educating them and protecting them.
And it is these women and their children who are increasingly haunting my dreams. I see the fear and the horror in the eyes that stare at me from the appalling images that are carried on news bulletins and in the press.
Somehow I feel that these women, who have suffered appallingly, who have lost children and loved ones, who live with the threat of rape, know that I know what is going on.
And I am struck dumb by not being able to process these stories. I have taken weeks to try to even write this blog post. I can’t articulate a response to this horror. Anything I say or write seems wholly inadequate. But yet to do and say nothing is to ignore those eyes I know are looking at me. Looking at us. Wondering when we are at least going to say something, to condemn what is patently immoral.
Our government didn’t represent me when they chose to abstain from the UN vote on Gaza recently. If any country on this planet should be able to identify with injustice, violence and the need to broker peace it should be Ireland. So it is doubly shameful that we chose not to stand up, to speak out. Our President has spoken only informally on this matter, stymied as he is by the constraints of his office. Perhaps he is also afraid to watch the news, afraid of what he might see. What the hell is wrong with us?