Today I did the one thing that any good mother would NOT do—I failed to protect my children. Not only did I fail to protect them, but I willfully subjected them to awfulness.
I had my reasons. Perhaps the most selfish is that I needed someone to share my sorrow with, I needed someone to help me reason through the roiling thoughts in my head. I wanted someone to hear and understand my helplessness.
Earlier this morning I watched a video on social media that showed a mother falling to the ground, baby in arms, having fallen victim to a stray bullet. The woman held groceries in one hand and her child in the other. Caught in a crossfire, she tries to dodge the first bullet but does not escape the second. She falls, baby still in arms. She is gone in a second and the baby is left reeling on the ground while all those around her run away.
I said all of this to my children.
In the animal kingdom, there is a lot of cruelty. Animals attack each other’s babies. Animals that travel in packs often leave an ailing family member to die alone, choosing to sacrifice the one to ensure the survival of the many. These are necessary and instinctive behaviors to ensure survival and propagation.
Human beings are supposed to have evolved. They are supposed to have surpassed other species thanks to the development of their brains that enabled them to tell stories that enabled them to build a moral code by which they could then live.
What happened to that young mother today was not human. It lacked any sense of morality. It was beyond animalistic. Whoever killed her certainly didn’t need to eat her child for survival nor was she impeding the movement of the pack. Killing her was unnecessary. Traumatizing her child was unnecessary. Widowing her husband and orphaning her three children serves no higher purpose. Her death was a senseless act devoid of humanity. She died for nothing.
I said this to my children.
I said this to my children because I wanted them to understand the city they lived in. The country they lived in. The world they lived in. I wanted to expose them to the cruelty in this world because I believe in them. As they embark on the rest of their lives, I want them to become better citizens than I ever was. I want them to deny what I accepted. I want them to fight where I capitulated. I want to use their energy to spur me to do something.
This crime happened less than five kilometers away from our home and yet it happened worlds away. It took place in the Chatila camp, far, far, away from our sheltered space. And yet just next door. The victim was a young woman of Palestinian origin. Watching that video I had two choices, reclaim my helplessness of previous years, get overwhelmed with emotion and put my head in the sand, again. I could decide this was all too big for me to deal with, too much for me to handle. I cannot, after all, single-handedly solve the world’s problems.
But I can try. I can use any arsenal I had to do something, anything, if only use words to tell one person about it. Just because I brand myself as a writer does not mean that I always find the right words. But, again, I can try. I can try to put this story out there in the hope that someone, with another skill, can apply their touch and another theirs. And then maybe this cumulative action can bring change. Maybe one day my children and I can live in a Lebanon we can believe in. Maybe one day lives in Lebanon will start to matter also, even if they are not Lebanese.
I said that to my children too.