What to Say?

What to Say? August 6, 2014

A plane was shot down over the Ukraine, but I didn’t blog about it because, what after all is there to say about the fact that hundreds of people were killed by a missile that was really only intended to kill a few people? “People are not only brutal, they are also stupid” is hardly an uplifting message.dont_deport_me

And my senior colleague actually asked me to blog about the influx of children crossing the border into the US, fleeing gang warfare in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. And surely there is something to say about children being stored in warehouses or deported back to life-threatening conditions. And certainly there is something to be said about the fear and loathing which so many people have expressed toward these kids. And there is, no doubt, something much better to say about the folks who are trying to find a way to make it work, to create a place of safety. But I hardly have any perfect solution to what to do with tens of thousands of frightened kids who have nowhere to turn. The best words I know on the subject you have no doubt heard already: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Which, according to this one guy, is the sum of how God expects us to behave. But, like I said, you’ve heard all that before.

And Lord knows there is plenty to say about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, but somehow I find myself uncharacteristically reluctant to get into arguments with people on Facebook about who is right and who is wrong because, frankly, I think that anyone who ends up killing children is wrong, wrong, wrong. And don’t try to explain to me how your side is justified, because I just can’t get past the fact that you should not be bombing children. Ever.

And, of course, there are all the people dying of Ebola in Africa, and certainly the ongoing terrible news about climate change and the ever-deepening drought where I live are much on my mind. But declaring that we are all doomed is hardly a spiritual gift to present to the world.

So what is there to say? What doesn’t sound trivial in the face of so much suffering, especially when the vast majority of that suffering is of our own creation?

Knowing that humans have created so much horror, it seems like we should be able to make it better. But that becomes even more depressing, since it’s clear that the scope of the problems is far beyond what any of us can fix.

The only words I can come up with are in this poem, which I wrote a couple of years ago in the wake of one more horror that has blended in with so many others:


The Last Good Days


What will you do

with the last good days?

Before the seas rise and the skies close in,

before the terrible bill

for all our thoughtless wanting

finally comes due?


What will you do

with the last fresh morning,

filled with the watermelon scent

of cut grass and the insistent

bird calling sweet  sweet

across the shining day?


Crops are dying, economies failing,

men crazy with the lust for power and fame

are shooting up movie theaters and

engineering the profits of banks.

It is entirely possible

it only gets worse from here.


How can you leave your heart

open to such a vast, pervasive sadness?

How can you close your eyes

to the riot of joy and beauty

that remains?


The solutions, if there are any

to be had, are complex, detailed,

demanding. The answers

are immediate and small.


Wake up. Give thanks. Sing.

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