"There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience." ~ French proverb
He Has My Eyes
'Isn't he beautiful?' asked my friend Charles. 'He has my eyes, look.' Sure enough, the newborn baby had my friends' eyes. 'He's so beautiful,' he exclaimed. 'He's perfect.'
There was no mistaking the awe in my friends' voice as he held his newborn son, nor the reverence he had for this new life that was revealed as his hand lightly touched the baby's cheeks, forehead and chest. He had studied every visible inch of this new life, examining the tiny fingers and toes, the silent, quick breaths of this newborn, and stood there almost speechless, except when he would point out one of the baby's features that as a trait ran rampantly in his family or in the family of the girl he married.
It was the ugliest baby I had ever seen, and growing up Catholic means I have seen a lot of babies.
It didn't matter to my friend, though. The fact that his kid had been born with the same bug-eyes and red hair that he had carried with him throughout his life was something that he thought was marvelous. And the fact that the baby was disgustingly fat didn't matter, either. My friend was right. His little son was perfect, if only to him and to his wife, which was all that really mattered. And as my friend passed out cigars to the few friends he had kept throughout those painful years of growing up as an unpopular kid who went unnoticed by everyone else, I rejoiced in his glory with him, because I had been a father already by this time, twice, and I perfectly understood how he felt at that moment.
These little lives are perfect, no matter how they appear to others.
It is the one time that God allows us to play God, in making these little people. It is the one time that he allows us to see all the defects in our own natures (physical or temperamental) and smile as they are passed on to another. And no matter what kind of a failure each of us had been throughout life; no matter how many kids pushed us down on the playground and told us we were ugly or stupid, when we see this little son or daughter that He has given to us through the love of a spouse that we do not deserve, we know for just a few moments that we are okay, not as bad as we thought we were, not as bad as they said we were, or at least He thinks so, because he just made us all over again in the person of this little baby.
And it is like this in every corner of the world, for it is human nature, and we cannot escape it, although there are many among us who do not see it in others, possibly because they do not know about it in themselves.
'They don't bleed the same blood we do,' or some variation thereof, was what we heard often after September 11 by people who know little to nothing of the reasons that led to the tragedy. 'They don't place the same value on human life as we do here in the West,'-- word for word what Limbaugh and his co-workers at the Ministry of Truth had bored into the thick head of the American mind. And trying to explain to these people who considered themselves enlightened by their omnipotence what were the complexities of the situation between the Middle East and us here in the US was a completely wasted effort. By this time, they had not only been fully inundated, but as well falling-down drunk with the poison that was given out in extra-sized servings by Ariel Sharon's media/government complex. A poison that made the whole Middle East mess out to be just a product of religious fundamentalism as well as a whole host of other 'ailments' that people have come to believe just magically pop-up out of nowhere for no discernible reason. And when these enlightened beings who thought they understood the situation in the Middle East were argued into a corner by the facts, they would simply bust their way out of that philosophical corner with something I'm sure they picked up from some other enlightened individual.
'They're sand niggers, we should just nuke their ass and take their gas.'
I wish I could say I was exaggerating on these accounts, but unfortunately, they are all true, to which I'm sure many can attest. Not a day goes by without me seeing some 'real American' driving down the highway with a sticker on the back of his vehicle that reduces the whole Middle-East situation to some crude, four-letter solution.
Perhaps the rest of America --which has so coldly (and hotly) supported not only the war in Iraq , but as well all those other wars that have been pre-ordained to occur at some time in the near future--should see some photos. After all, we are a people who are addicted to visual aids, from our six hours a day of TV to our pornography to our video games. And I don't mean the disgusting photos of American GIs cheering as the little Iraqi boy with his arms blown off is loaded into an American transport so that he can be flown to better medical care in Europe, nor the staged pro-American rallies at the toppling of Saddam's statue. What they need is a good dose of reality television, not in the vein of Survivor, Joe Millionaire or the Bachelorette, but rather an exploration of what reality is for some of our fellow human beings in other parts of the world.
'Isn't he beautiful? said Saede Bashete 18 months ago about his newborn son, Alyan. 'He has my eyes, look.'
Except we can't look now, because little Alyan was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier, and the only photo I have been able to find of him is the one of him wrapped in bandages, so we cannot even tell the color of his hair. At one time, though, his father was passing out cigars to his friends who congratulated him in his latest success at playing God. For 18 months, Saede Bashete knew that he must not be all that bad, because he had been made all over again in the person of his little son.
'She's so beautiful,' said the baby girl's mother. 'She's perfect,' agreed her husband, as they both gazed down at newborn Christine Saada. She looked just like her mother, with her dark wavy hair, black eyes and beautiful Arabic nose.
Ten years later, the only thing remaining as proof of this little girl's existence is a lock of blood-soaked hair and some pictures, although I doubt that her family would keep the same picture of her on their mantle that I have in front of me now, because it shows this once beautiful little girl on a stretcher, one eye open, one eye closed, who died after she, too was machine-gunned by Israeli soldiers.
'They're just sand niggers, nuke their ass and take their gas.'
There is a semi-bright spot in all of this, though. Indeed, not all the children of Palestine that have been shot, burned, blown up or bulldozed by the Israelis have been killed. Many have survived the attempted assassinations by the Israeli government, but are now forced to continue their lives in a seriously diminished capacity compared to what they originally had. Many don't have arms, or legs, or smooth skin, or noses, or bowels, or hair, or eyes, or a whole host of other things with which they were perfectly born. They are alive, these once perfect recreations of two people who were allowed to play God, parents who must cry out in anguish every day at the site of a helpless child who can't feed herself or wipe himself or smell anything. A child who knows that people stare at him when he goes out, a child who hears the jokes and snickers made at his or her expense when Israeli settlers walk by and glance, a child who knows that he or she is a freak. A child who knows that if he or she is lucky enough to reach adulthood without being hunted down and killed like an animal by Ariel Sharon and the rest of the New Mafia, that he or she will still have to live the rest of his or her existence knowing that they were cheated out of the opportunity of living the simple life of a person with a family to raise.
Marriage? Probably Not. Children? Probably not. Playing catch with brother or Dad in the backyard? Not without any arms. Swimming? Not without any legs. Reading a book? Not now, after face and eyes were surgically removed with napalm. Even the simple act of hugging a loved one is not possible now that his or her hands have been blown off.
And all that a parent can think is that there was a day when this child was perfect, and no matter what the rest of the world thinks about this little child that is now seen as a freak, he or she is alive, and that is something.
'Our blood is redder, and therefore more preferable to the Lord,' is what the man said, Rabbi Yitzak Ginsburg of Nablus, a settler in one of those 'terrorist' Palestinian villages that was exterminated in order to make way for new Israeli homes. Maybe he should see how red Palestinian blood is after it has been shed by the IDF on an average workday. One would have hoped that in this day and age, those individuals who raise themselves up as models of humanity would have acquired some sense of color-blindness. Not yet, I suppose.
For the rest of us, we should consider the idea that despite all being born human, there are some who choose not to remain so. There are those who, given the option, choose to be Cain instead of Abel, a lustful, greedy beast willing to slay his brother without a thought as to what it really means for another to suffer and die. A beast who allows his worry over the economics of his life to justify the shedding of innocent blood, and who does not think of the pain he will bring to parents by killing one of their children.
For most of us, the desire for kingdom and sovereignty extends no further than being king or queen of a household, having a family, providing for them, and watching our little citizens grow up. For most of us, the idea of trading this noble mission in life for riches, power, or whatever would never even be considered, and therefore we cannot see the reason why other people would want to trade this tiny, yet imperfect paradise for the chance to rule the world. What we have to remember is that men like Sharon, Wolfowitz, Bush, Netanyahu, and Blair are not men like us. They don't know what it is like not to crave power, in much the same way that an alcoholic doesn't know what it is like not to crave whiskey. They are a race of people whose thirst for power is as passionate and dispassionate as is a vampire's thirst for blood, and the images of dead, maimed, disemboweled, faceless children and the parents that bewail them do not trouble them when they are making their plans, and probably do not trouble them when they are at rest. They are unmoved by the mental snapshot of a parent who must say good-bye to his or her child who had been born perfect, a child who had been given to them as a gift from God, as if to say, 'You're not as bad as you thought you were.'
And while a parent mourns,
Somewhere in Tel Aviv, a map is spread across a table, as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his military leaders make their plans for the next day.
And as a parent cries out in anguish,
Someone in Washington DC puts the finishing touches on George Bush's speech, while someone else puts the finishing touches on his makeup before the cameras are turned on.
And somewhere in Palestine, a father looks at his newborn son and says 'Look, he has my eyes.'