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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Seventy

The Last Scene Before Flying With the Dove to Paradise.  ©copyright Malak Mattar 2021

Malak often includes a Dove of Peace in her paintings.

 

 

Ceasefire

 

 

 

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion, too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…

 

-John Lennon

 

Dedicated to all children growing up in war zones.

 

 

 

Malak Mattar, my young friend in Gaza, put up this FB post today: "I survived. I'm officially a four Israeli attack survivor by the age of 21."  But is this Le Fin, the end of this horror movie? Probably not.  Geopolitics, realpolitik, real lives underneath those falling bombs and rockets. Children in Palestine and in Israel and in Afghanistan growing up in war zones, suffering from PTSD, learning to hate, dreaming of escape or revenge. And what about the soldiers and flyers and bombers, what about their PTSD as they become yet more efficient killing machines?

 

Did the bombing in Gaza wipe out Covid? Of course not. But now that there is a ceasefire, the humanitarian agencies can get back in to do their work: house the homeless, provide medical assistance, vaccinate, even set up temporary schools and play spaces for the children.

 

I spoke to MacKay Wolff, a former relief worker for UNRWA, the UN agency set up in 1948 to serve  the Palestinians –and  Jews—displaced  by the war against the British colonial regime. "I hope they are using the 80 schools UNRWA set up as shelters," MacKay told me before the ceasefire. UN workers are tasked with protection—of everyone—to treat all those in need equally. It is not always easy, but that is what they are trained to do.

 

Gaza is flat, and unlike Israel, has no bomb shelters, my Palestinain friend Ahmad told me.  I had not realized that the terrain was indefensible, and was shocked to hear there are no shelters. In that case, I hope the Israelis are not bombing the schools, I thought. Did I say that thought aloud? I'm not sure. I was feeling distressed that day, and so was Ahmad. I knew that my Israeli cousins were safe, or safe enough, in shelters.

 

MacKay had written a story for my book, "Another Day in Paradise," about his posting in the West Bank during the first intifada. How many years ago was that? Too many. There are now 5.6 million Palestinians—the original refugees and their descendants—registered with the UN agency. How many refugees? Too many.

 

Strange that this very week the citizens of New York State began navigating without masks, enjoying freedom of movement and a renewed sense of safety. Most of us—if we have not lost a loved one, or our jobs, or have long term effects of Covid—are feeling positive, even euphoric, about our survival. I wish the same for Malak, her family, and all her wonderful activist friends. May they live in peace.

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Sixty-Eight

 

The Minnewaska Ridge in May © Carol Bergman 2021

 

Get Away

 

 

The world was ever,

 elsewhere

…no

way where we were

was there

 

-from "The Long Song," Nathaniel Mackey

 

 

  

 

A dear friend died this week. It wasn't a Covid related death, except it was. The facility where he had been living for a while had so much Covid these past months that his family could not get in to see him enough. Isn't it time to rethink how we "house" the sick and the elderly? And because it's no wonder that a virus can spread like a wild fire in multi-generational households and communities—slums and close-to habitations, institutions, all of the residents and workers at risk—it leaves me wondering what's best in the long term for our survival, and the survival of the planet. In it together? Only partially so.

 

60 Minutes on Sunday had an item on the flight to Mars, a mini helicopter hovering over the surface searching for boulders that might contain fossils of living or once living organisms. It's breathtaking, this achievement, this get away to another planet. It takes our minds off what we need to do here. Between my lines there's also the worry: If we ever do get there to form a "colony," will we replicate the insane violence, war, and callous disregard for our environment we have managed to perfect here on Planet Earth? Will Mars become a war zone?  According to the Council on Foreign Relations, there are twenty-five wars raging on our planet as I write. Yet, we carry on creating havoc in the world, letting ships carrying desperate migrants flounder at sea, selling arms to militant nations, spilling sewage into our rivers. And what's this about not sharing vaccination patents? Really? Do the words "global pandemic" register? In another time, Dr. Jonas Salk released the patent of the polio vaccine, no discussion.

 

Post-vaccination, I've started to hear friends, colleagues, students, and family mumbling and grumbling about the need, the absolute necessity, of getting away. How awful has it been for most of us? Really, how awful has it been? If we haven't had Covid, or we are not mourning a loved one who has died of Covid, how awful has it been? The answer is rhetorical, in part—not that awful compared to many others. Scary enough, awkward, too, as we navigated the logistics of everyday life, I'll concede that. But if we've had food in the house, a job, access to medical care? Not that awful.  Most people I know have survived very well indeed. Cooking fancy NY Times recipes: that's a luxury of the privileged few. Selling a home for a gazillion dollars when others are living in dire poverty? Not that awful. Having the technology to Facetime and Zoom? Not that awful. Silver linings? Plenty of them. I even took care of my tooth ache. My dentist had outstanding protocol and expensive protective equipment. Thank you. Apart from the medical necessity, it was a place to go, someone to talk to, and something to do. Dentists talk a lot. Don't they know we can't answer? Usually I mind not being able to answer. Not this time.

 

Missing people was the worst for me, not being able to touch and hug, enjoy micro-connections with strangers, but travel, no, I didn't miss that. I was already upstate when the lockdown in New York City started. I didn't need to get away, and I don't need to get away now; I am away. All I have to do is step outside the door and breathe.

 

 

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Are We Safe?

I wish to say only this: let us dedicate this blog post and this day to the murdered cyclists on the West Side Highway of Manhattan. Let us put our arms around the terrified children, their teachers and caretakers, the pedestrians who witnessed the carnage, the brave men and women of the NYPD, FDNY and FBI. Let us think about our human frailty, our resilience and our resistance. Let us not stop listening to one another. Let us not build walls. Let us study colonial history intently and understand why a lunatic terrorist came to America if only to kill. This trouble we are in did not begin out of thin air. And though utterly irrational in many respects, it has a source, a reason. Let us begin there in our understanding and our effort to find solutions.

I offer you, dear reader, a photograph of beautiful, innocent children, soccer fans, far away from New York. If we could transport them to New York they, too, might have been victims of the terrorist’s truck. Indeed, children in many countries are living in war zones and desperate poverty. They are in grave danger. What are we, as adults, doing to protect them, to make the world a more peaceful and safer place?

These are very abstract thoughts for this writer, but I am weary this morning, and sad for the afflicted families. It took me two hours in a slowed down, partially locked down city, to get home yesterday, and when I arrived, and only then, did I find out what had happened. I was safe, all my friends and loved ones were safe, messages were flooding Facebook, a troubled sleep, some journaling, this blog post, and onward into a new day.

But not without some reflection. And, as a writer, not without some thoughtful words. What can we do, little by little, one small action at a time, to make the world a safer and more peaceful place?  Read More 
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