Updated: Sep 7, 2021
I've had a lot of time to think about the question of humanity and our ability to come together as a human family to survive and possibly thrive as a world community. I have been fearful that this was just an utopian thought and that I was being naïve to think the country I live in could be united--let alone the world. The quarantine gave me a lot of time to think and think and think about our odds. I realized this has been a pressing question of mine for not just for the last 6 months since the quarantine began in NJ, but dominated my private thoughts much further back, 30 years back--returning from war and wondering if any of it added up. Do we even have what it takes to survive or will we go the way of the dodo on the back of stupid, meaningless war and violent conflict?
In the first war in Iraq, I was an 18 year old combat medic. During my short tour there, I saw many things I wish I could forget, horrors that have haunted me to this very day. But it was something else that I experienced while there that gave me a degree of hope. It was the orphaned children with their unbreakable need to play, to laugh, to be kids in this horrible and insane war that had stolen their parents. The way they would live in bombed-out, building skeletons, mostly open air, right outside of our small medical team's camp and play around the fires they would light almost every night. We would see them throwing gun powder from found small munitions on the fires, illuminating the night sky with light and explosive laughter (even if a few of the young ones did get too close on a few occasions and got something the team referred to as "flash burn" and had to come to us for treatment in the morning). They retained what might be called "the felt presence of immediate experience" in this dire life their world at war had so unfairly subjected them to.
One day a little girl arrived at our medical field hospital with her parents in very bad shape. She had suffered at the hands of a person that most likely just wanted her to get better from the large cyst/tumor on her leg. In trying to open up the lump, it had become infected and gangrenous. She was just holding on, barely, as her parents gave her to us hoping we could help. They kept saying they were from Basra, a town about 20 miles away. She was transported to the MASH unit where we later found out she had lost her battle with the infection and had died.