dimanche, mai 28, 2006

Finding ourselves

Lord, you are the God of peace," he said. "You are peace. A heart seeking conflict cannot understand you." Pope Benedict at Birkenau on his recent visit to Auschwitz

The images of Pope Benedict at the Polish death camps and the idea that he would request a return visit on his first official tour of Poland as Pontiff, are striking for reasons that are both obvious and indescribable. First of all, there is the vibrant photo of an aged man dressed in white-the color of purity and of saintliness-bowing his head silently for the dead in the ruins of a memorial where the very barracks still cry out in mute anguish. The former Cardinal Ratzinger was unwillingly conscripted into Hitler's army and apparently has an excellent relationship with the contemporary Jewish community. Nonetheless, it was interesting that as a German, he made no claim of personal responsibility or penance. Instead, he asked the question that haunts many of us, not matter how faithful we are- where was God?

Six million Jews as well as enemies of the Nazi regime, gypsies and other "undesirables" died during World War II. In Russia, millions died under Stalin. Three decades later, millions of Cambodians perished under Pol Pot. Even now, we are reeling from the genocide in the Sudan.

Where was God?

Perhaps now the more appropriate question for those of us who claim to follow the crucified and resurrected Jesus is-where are we?

Even as Benedict spoke so movingly of the past, Americans apparently are about to fall into the pit of another potential blot on our national honor-allegations that in an Iraqi town civilians, including little girls, were murdered in cold blood. Murdered for no reason at all. Already this war has had tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian victims of Iraqi and foreign insurgents. But this alleged atrocity is vastly different... this time United States civilians may be co-conspirators.

How many of us stood up and voiced our fury about the abuses at Abu Ghraib? How many of us told our legislators that we cared about nameless men held in shadowy prisons? How may of us rejected the empty rhetoric of those who claimed we were unpatriotic because we opposed a war fought on false premises? How many of us were comfortable arguing that while we supported our men and women in the military (most of them people of great integrity) we were horrified by the lack of concern shown for their well-being in Iraq?

How many of us were just too scared of ticking off a friend, or a neighbor, or an employer? Kudos to those who, in fact, marched and phoned and expressed their dismay at the way our American ideals have been prostituted by our leaders. But even that does not fully explain what might have happened in Haditha...which can only be accounted as evil.

We don't have all the facts about the alleged killings. But what we do know about Abu Ghraib is enough to make what is alleged to have occured in that war torn town all too credible. For many years, one unique picture from Vietnam has haunted the American conscience-that of a fleeing little girl on fire from being doused in napalm. Thirty years from now, what picture from Iraq will linger-that of a white-wrapped corpse of a small child laid out next to those of her family?

Forgive me, God for asking-where were you? Where were we?

1 commentaire:

Catherine + a dit…

Elizabeth, this is your most powerful piece yet, and the questions you ask comprise the cold, hard truth of "where were we?" in a way that makes me sit here and ask those questions of myself. Thank you for the "slap" that needs to make us more aware of what part did we play and what did we do about it? Keep writing...