It is March the seventeenth and the morning is beautiful. It is the first day in a while that I feel physically normal, almost fully recovered from a nasty cold that made me continuously aware of every muscle fiber in my body as an uncomfortable liability and of every hair follicle in my scalp as a separate entity screaming for individual recognition in its suffering. It is the first time ever that I felt defeated by a cold, forced by it to skip my morning writing routine and to cancel my gardening activities for over a week.
I start with a quick foray into the citrus fruit corner in the garden for my morning supply of fresh juice and get nearly knocked over by the sight of the bodies of seven out of my nine free-range chickens, including all three beautiful roosters, strewn under the trees. Earlier in the month I had trimmed the citrus trees severely. Could I have somehow disturbed their nightly perch and exposed them to danger with that? But why did the damned mongooses kill seven birds if they didn’t plan on eating them, I wonder? Random evil, pure and simple. The mongoose is no better than humans, I conclude.
The sight of my dead chickens consolidates the mental anguish I continue to experience seeing all the death and destruction nature and over-industrialization have visited on the people of Japan. I am tempted to blame the Japanese for what they are suffering: After all, the term ‘tsunami’ was part of Japan’s heritage gifted to the world adorned with the associated image of Japan’s former stuffy and self-reassured full readiness for earthquakes and natural disasters. My chickens had the option of staying in a safe coop but chose to sleep in the trees. The Gods must be furious with my chickens and with the Japanese. It behooves us all to consider what the Japanese have done to deserve all of this punishment, the worst disaster that Japan has suffered since WWII. I am no expert on Japan’s national character and collective sins. I have a deep-seated admiration for Japan’s achievements in trade, industry, science and the arts. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was captivated by the magic of their first robotic marathon. And I harbor a great yearning for the comfort of cavorting with geisha girls and for the breezy sweep of their kimonos as they serve me Saki or whatever the hell they serve in those teahouses. That is as far as I can venture in my imaginings of what the Japanese could possibly have done to deserve all the punishment I see them receiving on TV.
I halt in my thought process to reconsider: Could Aljazeera have been feeding me its “propaganda rubbish” as so many Middle Eastern powers now call it? In recent weeks it has targeted such prominent Arab leaders and succeeded to label them as dictators, thugs and thieves including such long-serving dependable allies of the West as Zine al Abidine ben Ali, Husni Mobarak, and Muammar Kaddafi. The guys had such beautiful blooms and crowed with such shrill voices every morning even before the villages six different muezzins called for the dawn prayer. Shouldn’t we have preserved them for decorative purposes?
What trick does Aljazeera now have up its sleeve? Might there be a grand plan to prepare the Japanese to join Al-Qaida? If they can be convinced that the punishment comes from no one but Allah and that it is punishment for Japan’s lack of mosques and for their excessive cavorting with geisha girls even in the holy month of Ramadan, and if the punishment is hard enough, then perhaps they might turn around, face Mecca, and join Al-Qaida. At least to me, this sounds realistic enough a scenario for the Saudis to introduce Japanese in the curriculum of their madrasas.
But then, sheers in hand and teetering high atop my gardening ladder, poised to commence reducing the cumulative exuberance of my Indian jasmine and South African lily hedge, I hear on my radio headset a Japanese father and his two children recount the heroism of the family’s mother who managed to save her two children but, as a result, was herself swept away by the wall of water. Then I hear the two children chime something in Japanese in unison: “We will come back tomorrow and find our mother.”
I don’t know if it was the tenderness in the children’s voices, the image in my head of the death and destruction wreaked on Japan by the quake and the tsunami, or the still mounting threat of massive nuclear explosion, but something in that mix of fear and hope of a family for their loving mother released a flood of emotion in my heart and I started sobbing. Why did those mongooses kill my chickens if they did not want to eat them? Copious warm tears streamed from my eyes down my unshaven face and stirred a wave of quivering and pain in my facial muscles. I rushed in for some painkillers but the bigger torment of my soul continued.
The BBC now was reporting on Ireland’s economic woes: one interviewee after another decried their bad luck and the loss of their racehorses to slaughterhouses or euthanasia. I placed a call to my friend, Rita MacGahey and left a message wishing her a happy St. Patrick’s Day. I could hardly hide my sobbing till I finished recording my message.
I checked my email: Well, I was only one day late. March 16 was the eighth anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s murder while defending Palestinian homes in Gaza against Israel’s army caterpillars. I uploaded two brief videos from U-Tube in which Rachel’s parents remember their daughter and remind us all of her universal message of care and love, a message that has succeeded to involve Cindy and Craig Corrie in human rights issues in Palestine and beyond. “She became our eyes and ears in Gaza,” Cindy declares and goes on to read from her lovely daughter’s letters home. What motivates youth to face up to injustice that threatens lives totally unrelated to their own? What did Gaza and the Palestinians have to do with Rachel? Why bother with people so different from your own in the first place? Or are all people one and the same?
The answer comes to me in the rush of tears in my eyes. I am overwhelmed with sadness and sympathy for the Japanese, for the Libyans, for the Irish and for the Corries. But many questions remain unanswered: Did the Israeli D-9 Caterpillar driver realize as he obeyed orders to crush Rachel to death that he was robbing her parents of their ability to see and hear us the Palestinians? Or was that the reason he committed his crime in the first place? He seemed to have taken leave of his memory and his humanity with that split moment of murderous decision. Hate may have rendered him blind and deaf to Rachel’s humanitarian message. How can we reach the humane core in all of us, even the criminal ones, and appeal to its yearning to preserve its own senses? Why the unnecessary and random killing? How can we reach all the loose nasty mongooses and the hyenas?
I have practiced medicine for some four decades without having had a clue as to this surprising symptom of a common cold: becoming emotionally labile as an early sign of recovery.