Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Post #61 - Never Send to Know...

"No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were;  any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." (John Donne, Meditation XVII)

Waterfront Park overlooking the Hudson in Nyack
In the last post, I mentioned several groups that are trying to bridge the gap between our two societies. In each of these citizen initiatives, the goal has been to afford Americans an opportunity to see “those people” who live somewhere “over there” become real people with real faces and feelings. Leila Zand, an immigrant from Iran (and current director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Iran Program), wrote: "I live in upstate New York, where I have a beautiful backyard…with flowers and trees…butterflies and birds. Every morning I take my coffee and go to my backyard."

Sitting there, Zand imagines the situation of an Iraqi woman “who has to listen to the sound of explosions instead of songs of birds,” and wonders if “there are any birds still alive in Baghdad.” Zand says:

"I am happy that I am not in Iraq…I am happy I am not in Iran to live with the fear of the American army surrounding me: in Afghanistan to the east, Iraq to the west, the Persian Gulf to the south and Azerbaijan and Kyrgystan to the north. I am happy that I don’t have to live with the fear of a war starting every moment.
"I am happy that I am not there. But what about those people who live there?...Our nation is in the war but we don’t feel it in our daily lives…But should we be happy when another human being exactly like us is suffering every moment? Should we be relaxed having our coffee every day without any sympathy for another creature of our God?
Land-mine victim, 18 years later
"I came from…war myself…I was there when my countrymen exploded on landmines [in the Iran-Iraq War]…I was there and saw with my own eyes, when a mother had to bury her kids with her own hands. I was there when a father wanted to bury his kids in the living room so he wouldn’t miss them. I was there when my school exploded…I was there and listened to the people burning and screaming with pain. “I am burning, help, help.”…I still hear these people while I am drinking my coffee in my backyard. I live with these memories every moment. These are parts of my life.
"I believe that as long as there are human beings in this world who are suffering from bomb explosions and attacks on their lives, we cannot have our coffee in peace while listening to the birds."

As you read this, are you in your own den or living room? Are you catching the WiFi in a Starbucks? Are you surfing to avoid the book you should be studying in the library? Are you picking up a 4G signal on a train? Are you sitting in a garden?

Do you realize how many people, at this moment, have no birds in their garden to listen to, or no garden, house or car -- or no ears?

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