Last night during a commercial I switched from Monday Night Football to CNN, where they were running a long segment on Syria’s expanding war and zoomed in on the faces of children as they scurried about during a bombing raid. In that moment, I felt as though I was there with those kids which made me wonder. I left my TV tuned to CNN for the entire segment, figuring that while I had been waiting for the Redskins-Giants game with great anticipation, it was only a game. There were two parts of the CNN segment that transfixed me. First, were the sounds: the camera people had caught in-progress a bombing of a street in which I could hear with clarity the bombs going off and the children screaming in response. Second, there were extended close-up camera shots of the faces of those children, a handful or so of them.
The viewer – anyone like me who was watching – was at ground level, following these children running for cover, running to follow an adult, running to be put on the back of a pick-up and driven away, running to the closest door of a nearby building or shack to take cover.
The screaming was intense. There were no moments of silence or calm. Only fear, abject fear, and terror, and horror. It is bad enough to see these things on the face of an adult, and yet another to witness them on the face of a child.
This is war, of course. We have known it since just about the beginning of time. We have even become accustomed to it in some ways. We hear routinely nowadays about the casualties, the deformities, the orphans, the displaced, the helpless and the hopeless. We hear about the soldiers who return home to celebrations only for many to have to wait a full year for the Veterans Administration to process their disability claims.
Some of us have become numb to it all. What are we to do?
When I started writing this post I only knew that I wanted to write it; I didn’t have any pre-determined insights or lessons or ideas that I wanted to make sure I brought forth. But as I sit here typing away, I see on my screen the following: The view and sounds of these children seers the heart. Last night, I simply wanted to reach into the television and grab as many kids as I could and hold them, indefinitely; to give them a respite, a safe place, a feeling of safety, even love.
I do not believe we can eliminate war, no more than we can eliminate evil. But one hopes we can find a better place for our children.