Yoga’s first rule is “ahimsa” — non-harming. A complete absence of violence. A complete renunciation of harm. And so, perhaps this entry today has more to do with yoga than I’d initially thought.
OK, let me share what caught my eye. And almost didn’t. And maybe that’s what I found so deeply disturbing.
Reading the NY Times yesterday, I noticed — almost missed it! — in Section A, Page 7, way at the bottom, tucked away near the inside crease of the paper, the announcement that two soldiers had died in Afghanistan. In a small box, titled “Names of the Dead,” I read, “The Department of Defense has identified 1,451 American service members who have died as part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans recently:
AMORES, Jason G., 29, …
SINKLER, Amy R., 23, … “
I’ve been reading the NY Times for many years now; how is it that this little box has escaped my notice until now?
Curious now, in a horrified sort of way, I needed to know: was this the standard treatment for soldiers who have died in this awful, senseless war? I searched, frantic now, through the stack of papers piled up, ready for recycling, and found another entry. Same slender box, “Names of the Dead,” again at the bottom of the page, this time at the center, Section A, Page 8, wedged — apologetically? no, I don’t think so — between “Afghan Official Expects …” and a travel ad for “Costa Rica, $995: 10 Days Guided Tour …” (yes, can you believe that?):
“The Department of Defense has identified …
BARTLEY, Michael, 23 …
LAMAR, Martin, 43 …
TORRE, Jose, 21 …”
Three people this time, adding more names to the tally of young lives lost forever. A few more searches revealed similarly placed boxes, each listing the Names of the Dead.
I am shocked, stunned, angry, upset, outraged. These were people, human beings just like you and me. A father. A daughter. A son. An uncle. They lived real lives. They had hopes and dreams and people who loved them, cared about them, worried about them. Who sent them off to a war they didn’t start, and wouldn’t end, and couldn’t win. Who fretted when they didn’t hear from them, and hoped they’d be home for Easter, or next Christmas. Or at all — that unthinkable, unspeakable wondering. Who may receive, along with their dearly departed — arriving home in a simple pine coffin — a flag of the Unites States of America. And, oh, I’m sure, a representative of our Armed Forces will be there, eyes downcast, expression professionally sad, to express the appreciation of a grateful country, and sincere condolences for this sad loss.
This war machine that swallows whole our young men and women, rages on, and all we can muster is a mumbled apology no one hears? A slender box in the NY Times, lost in the sea of letters marching across an anonymous and ever-changing page of more important news?
How is it that these names aren’t headline news? How is it that these young lives lost, are not known to us?
How can we bear, for even one more minute, the violence of this and other wars? How can we bear the disrespect shown those who gave their lives for a conflict they didn’t understand, and couldn’t possibly hope to heal?
Maybe they signed on with great idealism, with strong feelings about battling the forces of terrorism abroad. Maybe they came from a family with a tradition of service to this country. I do not support this war, but I respect those who enlist and risk their lives, believing they are keeping us safe. I am against war, but I am in awe of their courage.
How terribly sad that they had to die a violent death, far from home and loved ones, in a dusty land where their presence was resented, and they, detested, for who they were, and what they represented.
And, sadder still, that they are, truly, unsung heroes, meriting only those two or three scant lines in the paper; what a terrible, unthinkable second wound to their families, this callous manner of listing their names.
Yoga’s ancient wisdom, harking from thousands of years ago, demands that we speak up for non-violence and peace, now. And so do these young soldiers and their grieving families.
We keep trying wars, and we get, in return, more wars.
When will we learn that violence begets only more violence?
When will we learn that we must commit ourselves to peace in this world, in this lifetime?
Bob Dylan said it best when he sang, “How many deaths will it take till we know, that too many people have died?”
Indeed, how many boxes, filled with the names, and the bodies, of unknown dead, will it take till we learn that we must, we must, renounce violence and embrace “ahimsa?”