samedi, mai 24, 2008

Eating Bitter

"There is no official figure on how many children died at Xinjian Primary School, nor on how many died at scores of other schools that collapsed in the powerful May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province. But the number of student deaths seems likely to exceed 10,000, and possibly go much higher, a staggering figure that has become a simmering controversy in China as grieving parents say their children might have lived had the schools been better built..." From Saturday's NYT

I don't think I could do what Melissa Block and Robert Seigel did. For the past few weeks, Block and Seigal reported for NPR on the earthquake from Sichuan province. Yes, they didn't go to Sichuan to report on an earthquake that caused more than 50,000 deaths. They found themsleves in the middle of a story. Yet their empathy, courage and fidelity to the high ideals of journalism was remarkable.

What I would have found hardest was the death of thousands of children in primary schools that were not built to withstand earthquakes. The stories on the radio are searing-what is the reality? In, China, as you know, families were often not supposed to have more than one daughter or son.

I wonder what returning to the US will be like for Block and Seigal. I'm guessing they will struggle a little with returning to a city where buildings rarely shake. I hope they have help in processing what they saw. And I'm sure the faces of Sichuan Province, alive and dead, will remain with them forever. We should keep them, and the people of China, in our prayers.

mardi, mai 20, 2008

Whose children are they?

Bob Herbert (linked above) has a deeply distressing commentary on the toll this war is taking on our soldiers. We know suicides are going up among those who come back from Iraq. Often, they carry the terrors of what they saw and sometimes participated in back with them. We don't always perceive the scars-but their vulnerable spouses and children may be collateral damage. The upper middle class, and the governing classes, send working class men and women, often children themselves, off to fight our wars.

How can we justify condemning them to nightmares that last not one night, but possibly a lifetime?

Let's remember our troops when we are tempted to smear the opposing candidate this fall. And let's try to do the right thing for them when they need help-after all, they were there for us...

dimanche, mai 18, 2008

Among the beasts

I have just returned a lovely couple of days in D.C. with a good friend. We were housed and fed by one of her relatives, gracious enough to extend family hospitality to me.

Thanks in part to the rain which slowed our progress down to the Washington area and back, we managed to cover an enormous number of topics. From politics we moved to religion-we met in a church many years ago, and although we have slightly different points of view on the institution, we share some fundamental similarities.

We meditated on the vagaries of spouses (and ex-spouses) and the sometimes bestial dating scene. Pages torn from family history and talk about the tribulations of middle-aged friends blended with musings on aging and the challenges of financial planning. Sitting across from the Zoo in bustling Adams-Morgan, I took an hour to meet a new friend. Basking in the midday sun, he and I talked about what it means to be "green", our political leanings and our taste for dialogue with those who differ. Then we said goodbye, and my friend and I strolled among the cheetahs and tigers-the big, carnivorous cats being of a particular interest to my friend.
I was just happy to be among the beasts-an appropriate setting to describe a difficult relationship with a friend. I do not sunder friendships easily. Delaying that decision for another day, I clambered into the car with H., awaiting a stroll through the fabulous Dumbarton Oaks gardens, a happy dinner with my cousin and his wife, and the anticipation of the next day, when I would see my rambunctious, uppity, bright and loving children again. I wonder if, and when, it becomes easy to be away from them-for more than 24 hours.