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April 9, 2017

When there are No Answers & the War Rages on, we can Still do This.

Just a few short days ago, the United States launched an airstrike against a government-controlled airbase in Syria.

By now, it’s already old news.

I should preface this by saying that I’m no military expert, but hell, neither is our commander-in-chief, a draft dodger whose disrespect for veterans—including those taken as prisoners of war—is unremarkable in light of the long list of people our president has little to no respect for.

So I won’t weigh in on whether or not this airstrike was advisable from a military perspective. I cannot even say if another president would have acted differently. From the outside looking in though, it can hardly be considered successful, as the airbase is still standing and most of the casualties have been civilians, including children.

So I won’t speak about military strategy, of which I know nothing. Or politics, partisan or otherwise. But as a human being on this planet and as a parent, my heart aches for Syria.

My heart has hurt since the moment I saw the photographs of Aleppo, once a lovely city now turned to death and ash. It aches for borders closed to families who could have seen new lives rather than early deaths. It aches for a world that responds to violence with more violence, and to the death of children with the death of more children.

In the wake of a U.S.-led bombing and the death of more civilians, I have been nearly silent. For the last few days, I’ve simply sat with my thoughts, probing their edges to see if I am strong enough yet to enter them. I have felt a shadow of the grief of every mother with a child lost to a war raging outside of her control because governments don’t stop to count the cost when they use violence as a means of furthering their political agendas. Or they consider the loss of a few children to simply be collateral damage.

And I have a hard time living in a world that sees the taking of human life to be an appropriate means to any end.

In sifting through our thoughts in times of trouble, we can often take solace in literature and quotes. As a self-professed bibliophile, I find comfort in words and in the sensory experience of holding a book and turning the pages. So I sought out comfort and found these words:

“The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.” ~ Ulysses S. Grant

“Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” ~ George S. Patton

There were so many quotes of this nature that I became even more despondent. Will it never end? Would those writing these words continue to find ways to justify war and violence as necessary tools to maintain peace?

Still, I read on, searching for comfort.

“It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Even today we raise our hand against our brother…We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.” ~ Pope Francis

When I sought to find any voices speaking out against violence, I found religious leaders urging us to turn away from war. But, oddly, few mothers or women were quoted. It’s as if women’s voices have been drowned out by the shouting of all these men, or perhaps our grief has always been too heavy at times of war because we understand that it could just as easily be our children as theirs and that no child’s life should be lost this way.

In the words of Virginia Woolf, “As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.”

But still, war wages on. And I could find no peace inside the literature that normally serves as a balm to my soul. I began to wonder if I was seeking peace at all, or simply seeking answers. Abandoning the pursuit of peace or answers, I instead turned to what I could do, which never seems to be enough.

But there are always practical things we can do at times like this, even if it’s not possible to single-handedly bring about peace or find satisfactory answers to the question of war.

1. We can offer up prayers. I consider myself spiritual rather than religious, but I do believe in the power of positive intention, of concentrating our energy, of offering up prayers. They can be scripted, like these I list below, or they can simply come from the heart. We can even offer up a variety of prayers from a variety of religious traditions and send out some love for Syria.

Buddhist Prayer for Peace
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses—the children, the aged, the unprotected—be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they quickly attain Buddhahood.

Christian Prayer for Peace
Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be known as the Children of God. But I say to you that hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To those who strike you on the cheek offer the other also, and from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well. Give to everyone who begs from you, and of those who take away your goods, do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would to do you, do so to them.

2. We can look for ways to help by donating our time, resources, or money. Charity Navigator can help us figure out the best way to help. It lists several active charities and details their work so we can make informed decisions.

3. When the travel ban is lifted, we can consider opening our hearts and homes to refugees from war-torn countries. It’s a big commitment, but it’s also a practical way we can contribute to a more peaceful world.

4. We can raise awareness about the issues among our friends and family, and even participate in fundraising to help worthy causes.

I went on a literary scavenger hunt looking for peace, but I was reminded that there is always war. I doubt I will see an end to it during my lifetime. I can, however, make sure that I advocate for peace while I’m living. It’s not enough to have compassion for another country or to feel empathy for human suffering. We need to make sure we don’t let ourselves become so accustomed to death and violence that we only feel a little sad before moving on and consuming the next piece of news.

So often, I’ve shifted my time and attention away from the world’s suffering, feeling helpless to do anything more than ache for the lives lost. But now, in the face of the conflict in Syria and the United States’ growing involvement, I can only hope that the truly successful strike is at our own complacency.

 

Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: Twitter screenshot

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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