For the first time in many years, I find myself avoiding the news. It upsets me. It’s hard to feel hopeful about the world when people kill each other because they have different visions of God or different religious rituals. As a result of this avoidance, I missed the story about the Afghan woman who was murdered in Kabul after admonishing a man in a market stall who sells amulets to childless women. In case you missed it too, the angry man shouted into the crowd that the woman had burned the Koran. A mob, including a number of policemen, descended on the woman and beat her to death. They also threw her body off a building and ran over it with a vehicle. People recorded it on their cell phones. It reminded me of another story a few years ago where an Afghan girl was stoned to death by her brothers after marrying a boy that her parents had not chosen for her.
When I see things like this, I deflate. I get a similar feeling when I hear of an animal that’s been abused or see a violent movie. My mother used to say, “Oh, you can’t get upset about it; it’s always been this way.” Yeah. But has it always been so relentless, so visual? No. So how are we to process this steady stream of ugliness? I think this is something we must face, and we must face it as a planet. If people in Kabul have cell phones that could record that woman’s murder, then there’s really no place too remote. And let’s face it: people are drawn to the sensational. If it’s out there, they will tune in. Our kids will tune in. What’s to be done about this? I’d really love to know.
Just after I posted this, I opened up a magazine and found this poem, by Lisel Mueller:
I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.
If you’re patient, the Universe sometimes provides an answer, doesn’t it?