Yesterday morning I woke up to the news of yet another man, a Brit this time, being brutally beheaded by IS militants somewhere in Syria. On the face of it, my reaction was, “Oh my! That is absolutely horrible!” Then I went on with my daily activities. Underneath, however, my mind was in a whirlwind, partially because of my apparent reaction.
Brutal, violent deaths have become so commonplace now in the Middle East. There are so many innocent victims regardless of who is doing the killing. I am someone living in a safe environment who receives this news, feels horrified by it, but is able to continue with my life as normal afterwards. So many people like me are in the same position.
I try to put myself in the shoes of all those people who are under constant threat of a horrific death. I think what it must feel like to believe that my life is so transient, so worthless in the grand scale of things, that beyond a few of my close friends and relatives, the heinous crime that will be enacted against me in the next few minutes will have such an insignificant impact on the rest of the world that the most they will do is utter words of disgust and then they will go on with their lives.
Most of us struggle, at least at one stage of our lives, with trying to understand why we have been placed on this Earth and what is our purpose. Many of us will be fortunate enough to grow old and maybe realize that there aren’t necessarily any really good answers to those questions. By then, many of us might be fine with that. Or maybe we will be able to feel that we were given a chance and that we tried. We will have had time to make peace with it all.
But for a life to end so abruptly, so brutally, with so much injustice, how does one reconcile oneself with it all in those last few minutes?
And how do the more fortunate among us reconcile ourselves with that happening to another human soul while we go on with our lives, laughing, hoping, dreaming, and living?
The helplessness of it all is almost too much to bear. It is my feeling of utter helplessness that leads me to do everything I can to shut down a part of my brain and heart, which, if kept open, would drive me to insanity.
People are dying brutal deaths. This should not be happening. There should not be people in this world who justify the bombing of civilians or the beheading of journalists and aid workers. But there are. There are even people who celebrate it. I sometimes wonder what is more horrifying: when these acts are perpetrated by “barbaric, ignorant, extremists” or when they are perpetrated by “democratic, civilized governments”.
None of this is new. The entire history of the human race is full of evil people and their evil acts. That fact does not make it any more comprehensible to the rest of us or any more digestible. The feeling of helplessness is the worst of it. We can have our long-term projects to change things at the grassroots level. We can have our negotiations. We can use our words to talk to people and to raise awareness. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to save those people who were brutally killed in the few moments it took me to write this one sentence.
May God have mercy on us all.