Record Herald, September 12, 2009


Friday, September 11, 2009

I write this letter on the eighth anniversary of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington – events that provoked unspeakable suffering around the world and that continue to fuel suffering beyond anyone’s capacity to measure.

Two days ago, on the floor of the U.S. Congress, a representative from South Carolina shouted, “You lie!” at the President.  I believe that his spontaneous cry was a shout of personal suffering.  I sincerely believe that had he not felt the instantaneous rebuke of his peers, that congressman’s next outcry would have been, “Let them die!” - referring, of course, to the illegal aliens about whom he felt the President was lying.  Either the “illegals” suffer from lack of health care, or the congressman suffers from a blow to his political philosophy.  Either way, someone suffers.

I also believe that this summer’s abominable comparisons of the President to Hitler had their birth in personal suffering.  Who caused more suffering for humanity during the last century than the Nazis did?  That was the basis – skewed, to be sure – of Sarah Palin’s comparing Obama’s healthcare initiative to Hitler’s death panels.  How ironic, then, that the President’s entire mission in reforming healthcare is to reduce suffering. 

At a recent local healthcare forum, a man denounced Big Government, saying “individuals, not government, should provide healthcare for other individuals. That’s the Christian thing to do.”  I wanted to ask him how many individuals outside of his immediate family he was footing medical bills for, but I kept quiet.  Why increase his suffering just to win a few “gotcha” points?

It’s been eight years since attacks upon this nation opened floodgates of suffering: over 5,000 Americans have died in two wars; economies have collapsed; the ranks of the homeless and unemployed have nearly doubled.  No one knows how deeply these furious rivers will cut, but everyone knows that their “cost” is enormously increased suffering for both people and planet.

During the last weekend of this month (September 25-27), a local Quaker group will again sponsor the “Eyes Wide Open – The Cost of War” exhibit at the county courthouse. 

“Eyes Wide Open” will attempt to increase our mindfulness of the many costs of war:  a pair of boots for each Ohio soldier who died in Iraq and hundreds of shoes representing civilian casualties.  With banners and leaflets appealing to our sensibility and intelligence, the exhibit will challenge us to open our eyes and hearts to human suffering – that we might renew our commitment to reducing it: whether in Congress, or in the rubble of devastated cities, or wherever wars rage throughout the world.

- - - Tom Kirdas, Clarksburg