The Numbers

One innocent life lost condemns the human race, so weighing the 2,740 people killed in the 9/11/01 attacks against 92,311 civilian deaths in Iraq and 4,972 direct civilian deaths by coalition forces in Afghanistan doesn’t seem fair enough to justify the vitriol I will get for writing the sentence. There are more numbers – 4,568 coalition forces killed in Iraq, including 3,662 American troops. Lot of numbers, each representing a life, each representing a violent death committed by another human life, witting or unwitting, for reasons some may fathom, but none can condone.

So many lives, all over the world, ended by bullet, bomb or bludgeon. So many lives exploited by unfair labor and oppressive economies, so many souls held prisoner by faiths of hate and fear, so many minds focused on obedient rage at another’s existence. I no longer have numbers here. We could go and gather them like pecans in the yard, walking under trees of deliberate human tragedy – Darfur, Rwanda, Auschwitz, Palestine – gathering 80 one day here, 1,342 another day over there.

And for all of our pecans, neatly shelled to discern the precise cause of death of each person to yield a number we are quite sure includes only innocent victims of these wars and conflicts and massacres, for all the nuts in the bag there are so many more in the dark invisibility of unknown, unnoticed slaughters. We have all these numbers, this huge aggregation of murder, the crime against all rational morality: what are we to do with them, how are we to stop it?

I am supposed to lyric now, to choral astonishment at our ability, in the midst of this sad melee, to laugh at Colbert’s Hope entertaining our troops stranded by error. I have a duty to admit the palliative relief that we are here, with our family of friends, cooled by air conditioning, warmed by wine and free to sleep embracing. We do so at such a great, unnecessary cost.

And now I lay me down to sleep, praise some Lord my soul to keep, counting sheep…

(Original Date: June 9, 2009)

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