I was moved by something my friend Peter wrote in his piece about 9/11 last night: he said his heart goes out to people who "find themselves so unfairly in the middle of conflict."
It's in incisive thought. It's easiest to process thoughts of a monolithic "they" when thinking of the people who find themselves trapped in bad situations. The Syrians are fighting. Black people in the inner cities murder each other. They do this, another they do that.
But of course there's no "they." There are only people, in their infinite variety. I've thought often over the years of the people of Hiroshima who were the first victims of an atomic weapon. (Despite having never read John Hersey's famous Hiroshima, originally published to a frenzy of acclaim in The New Yorker, entirely filling a single issue.) It's widely acknowledged now, by both Americans and Japanese, that the victims of the Hiroshima bomb sacrificed their lives to save more lives, but that might not console the dead. The bomb killed between 90,000 and 140,000 people in what is now called the City of Peace. Among them were certainly people of every imaginable sort, including many who in no way deserved to die: teachers, gentle people of religion, young boys thinking of girls and young girls thinking of boys, demented old men, loving grandmothers, babies who had not had a chance to be anything but innocent, people whose passion was a craft or gardening or music. Certainly there were those among the dead who were pacifists, and those who didn't agree with their government's policies at all; people who had already suffered loss in the war, people who expected to survive it who didn't; the list, you perceive, goes on and on. All the dead perished. No matter who or what they were.
Why them? The photographer Diane Arbus told Newsweek in 1967, "it's irrational to be born in a certain place and time and of a certain sex. It's irrational how much you can change circumstance and how much you can't. The whole idea of me being born rich and Jewish is part of that irrationality. But if you're born one thing, you can dare—venture—to be ten thousand other things." (The quote is from William Todd Schultz's "psychobiography" of Diane Arbus, An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus.) Of course, you can't dare or venture to not be under the invisible bomb that's falling from the sky, unbeknownst to you and through no fault of your own. Nor can you help it if a stray bullet can come through your window or your wall and strike your child, of if factions are warring in the places you used to peaceably conduct your life.
Only a few people who die in conflict deserve to. It's irrational, but for most people caught in the middle of it, as Peter says, it's merely, profoundly, unfair.
"Morning Coffee" is a little blip from Yr. Hmbl. Ed. auto-published weekdays at 3:30 a.m. Central Time today to be in time for morning coffee breaks in the UK and Europe. For those west of that, it'll be there when they wake up.
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