I'm going to slip this in, under the wire, for PERPLEX, the prompt for ninth Nisan in #blogexodus.
I am perplexed by much of the story of our redemption, our Exodus from Egypt. Why did it take 400 years for God to finally hear our cries? Why would Moses, let alone God, expect this newly freed people, who had only known a taskmaster's lash, who had not tasted the sweetness of freedom and the joy of being bound to God - why would they expect the Spies to behave any differently? Trust? After all that history, on a seeming whim? Really? Why does it appear that Aaron got off scott free after the gossip transgression, while Miriam was doomed to suffer and be exiled from the community, until she was healed, until she was deemed fit to re-enter? Why was she not mourned?
I am perplexed about so much of our story. But today, I really don't so much care about the tangles of our story. I really don't care about its themes of redemption and hope and freedom and binding.
Today,.I am perplexed by a world that tacitly condones murder by hunger, by medical need, by neglect and indifference. Our texts are clear - there shall be no needy. Yes, yes - there will always be needy. Our text comments on that as well: If there are needy, give them what they need, with open hands and open hearts. I am, again, perplexed that we can be so blithe and blind to the ravages of need.
I am perplexed at the murder of anyone. I don't understand, in any way, the killings that we witness, every day. My mind absolutely boggles at the battlefields we have made of our homes, our cities, our seas.
We witness these murders daily: in Syria and Russia, Paris and Turkey. Senseless and horrific, they are atrocities, because of their scope and numbers. In Chicago, where I live, there are parts of this glorious city where children must walk through war zones to get to school and back; where innocents become collateral damage and we tag the murders of the not-innocents as something a little less than murder, and more like just desserts. As if the death of ANY person does not diminish us all.
We witness these deaths - murders and killings and atrocities - and we shake our heads, draw our families closer (even for just the moment, grateful that we can). We feel genuinely bad: shocked, perplexed, angered, saddened. We are indignant, and demand that something be done, dammit! All the right things, all the civilized, compassionate feelings. We witness, we feel. We know, down to our bones, this is a great and terrible wrong that must be stopped.
And the next day - hell, the next hour - we witness it all over again. Our perplexity consumes us.
Here's the thing: I don't have an answer. There is probably no one answer anyway, in such a complex, worldwide, ancient sin of ours, of all of us humans. I know that you have to feed people. Make them healthy. Educate them, clothe them, give them skills and jobs and hope. And you know what? In my naivete, I can bet that if we were only to place our efforts in saving people over making profit - if a human life were actually more valuable than an ounce of gold - we could change the world almost overnight.
How about this - how about we treat a person, not a need? We talk about the Hungry, the Poor, the Other, as if each need were a monolith of sameness, as if every person there were exactly the same, needed in the exactly same way. Every person in need is a person - a face, a heart, a soul, a voice. We want to create a little box, control it tightly, fit all the people with Need A into the box labeled Need A, then slap a lid on it, tie it up with string, and put it on a shelf, as we dole out a solution crafted to blanket the box - but not the people we've put there.
Those people - and the very fact that we can say "those people" is testament to the problem - are faceless. Those people are numbers. Those people are Them, inherently different from, less than Other. We reduce a person to a need, so we can discuss the problem of that need at a healthy, intellectual distance. We can provide solutions, that, if they don't work, we can shrug our shoulders and know that at least we tried - and then return to our regularly scheduled lives.
Forgive my broad brush here. Forgive the soap box upon which I've climbed. Notice that I say "we," not "you." This is my sin as well. Here's a novel thought: how about we unpack those boxes, and really see the people for who they are? How about we understand that we are all made from the same dust of stars and earth.
I am perplexed by how easily we can reduce people to the lowest common denominator - and then find even the trap door to that.
The people who were murdered, most likely by their own government earlier this week, whose homes have been made into bombed out shells, who have been forced to flee, again and again, until there were no roads left upon which they could flee - they are not Syrians, or Muslims or Christians or whatever label we attach to them to make them something Else - they are humans. They deserve our respect and compassion. They are not a sad little box to put on a shelf already over-crowded with other sad little boxes filled with human fodder and faceless Others.
They deserve honor. They deserve their names. Zichronam liv'rachah, may their memories be for a blessing. May their names be remembered.
1. Molham Jihad al-Yusuf
2. Yasser Ahmed Al-Yousef
3. Child- Ammar Yasser Al-Yousif 7 years old
4. Child- Muhammad Yasser Al-Yousef 10 years old
5. Ms. Sana Haj Ali, wife of Yasser
6. Abdul Karim Ahmed al-Yusuf
7. Child Ahmad Abdul Hamid Al - Yusuf 9 months old
8. Child Abdul Hamid al -Yusuf 9 months old
9. Ms. Dalal Ahmed Al-Sahh, wife of Abdul Hamid Al-Yousuf
10. Ibrahim Mohammed Hasan al-Yousuf
11. Child Muhammad Hassan al-Yusuf 11 years old
12. Ms. Hind Turki Al-Yousef
13. Omran Suhail Al-Yousef
14. Ahmed Suhail Al-Yousef
15. Nihad Ahmad al-Yusuf
16. King (Malak?) Turki al-Yusuf, wife of Nihad al-Yusuf
17. Nur Nihad al-Yusuf
18. Hassan Mohammed Al-Yousef
19. Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Yousef
20. Imad Al-Din Al-Qudh - Pharmacist
21-23. Children of Imad al-Din al-Qudh We did not get their names
24. Turki al-Qudh
25. The wife of Turki al-Qudh
26. The child Hind Turki al-Qudh
27-28. My baby Turki Qudh We did not get their names
29. Ms. Raja Mohammed Al-Mohammad
30. Anas al-Khalid - Teacher
31. Mr. Fatima Al-Sousi, the wife of Anas Al-Khalid - a school teacher
32. The child Mustafa Anas Al-Khalid
33. The child Alaa Anas al-Khalid
34. The child Shahd Anas al-Khalid
35. The child Abdul Rahman Ans al-Khalid
36. The child Khadija Anas al-Khalid
37. Ahmed Khalid Halawa
38. Khaled Halawa
39. The child Shaima Ibrahim al-Jawhar
40. Ahmad Shahoud al-Reem Abu Muhanna
41. Abu Ayman al-Jawhar
42. Ms. Safia Haj Kaddour, wife of Abu Ayman al-Jawhar
43. The child Meyar al-Mari
44. Amer Al-Naif- lawyer
45. Alaa Al-Naif
46. Mohammed Al-Naif
47. Alaa Mohammed Al-Naif
48. The wife of Alaa Mohammed Al-Naif
49. Wife of Alaa Mohammed Al-Naif
50. Jamila Hafez Al-Qasem - A pediatrician.
51. Dirar Al-Aliawi Abu Emad
52. Mohammed Jamal Al-Qassem
53. The wife of Muhammad Jamal al-Qasim
54. Fatima Jamal Al-Qassem
55. son of Mohammed Said Barhoum
56. Hayyan Al-Ali
57. Wife of Hayyan Al-Ali
58-59. Children of the children of Hayyan Ali
(found on the Facebook wall of a friend)