On 1/26/08, Tonya Sneed
January 26 is forever etched into my mind. Today is the anniversary of my cousin's death. I still remember where I was when I got the phone call from my mom. Jim was standing next to me in the lobby of my college dorm. I remember the shock, the unbelievable-ness of it all, taking pills to help myself sleep. I knew how deeply this affected her parents. I know how deeply it still affects them. No one can ever know the measure of their suffering.
Ya know, the Buddhists say that life is suffering.
Death and suffering are things that I never can quite get my arms around. I don't want to. Don't want to accept it as a natural part of life. It's too unnatural. That we are just here for this brief moment and then we're gone. I can't grasp that. That some people and animals spend most of that brief moment, even all of it, suffering, makes me feel insane in those dark moments when I try to ponder it. So I try not to ponder it. But I can never pretend for long. The darkness always comes back.
I suppose it's my own internal struggle against the forces of suffering and death that have led me to the causes that I now actively support. Animal rights, death penalty abolition, anti-war movement, etc., are all very much anti-death and anti-suffering endeavors. Indeed, even reforestation in Haiti is an anti-death effort. It is an attempt, however feeble, to create a world of life-giving trees.
Wednesday night Jim got upset as he told me about a picture of an Iraqi woman in the paper. She has her head in her hand and is crying, after having waited 3 days in line for gasoline for heating. It's cold in Iraq, and she's still in line, wearing these house slippers. There are U.S. soldiers with their maddening weapons stand next to her. It's an awful photo -- am surprised the A.P. let us see it. Jim said to me, "Tonya, it doesn't have to be this way! It doesn't have to be this way!"
I agree with him. I'm mad, too. But the moment reminds me why I love him so much. His ability to empathize, to see things from others' perspectives, is a rare and beautiful, though often painful gift.
This week we learned that Dhiaa's father was injured in a car accident -- he broke his leg when someone rammed his car just because Dhiaa's father is Shi'a. Dhiaa insists that before the war, being Shi'a or Sunni was a non-issue. In fact, his mother is Sunni. I learned the same lesson from an Iraqi woman who risked her life to come to the U.S. a couple of years ago. She told us that the Shi'a and Sunni regularly intermarried before the war. And, the blog Baghdad Burning attests to this. What we have in Iraq is business as usual by the U.S. military. Divide and conquer.
Thank you, all of you, for your efforts against suffering and death. It really doesn't have to be this way. I hope that together we can construct a different kind of world where hugging and dancing (did you get to see the You Tube video?) and sharing and justice and peace and the magical forces of love reign.
"The trouble is that once you see it, you can't unsee it. And once you've seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There's no innocence. Either way, you're accountable."