Thursday, November 30, 2006

a moment of silence

On Monday morning NBC declared that there is now a "civil war" in Iraq, between the Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities. And of course there has been a backlash about the use of language, most likely due to the conjecture, in months and years past now, that the worst case scenario would be civil war. Now most commentators seem to say we are there, and military leaders concur, among them Colin Powell. The worst case scenario is upon us: it is a civil war. It is no longer about us.

At the end of the News Hour with Jim Lehrer this evening, there was an honor roll of those who have recently died. This honor roll is presented when the bodies are identified and photographs are available. The men (tonight they were all men) are shown, without commentary, with only their age and place of residence. And so the faces are before the viewer, in silence.

My impression in watching tonight's group of twenty men was that they were very young, many of them still in high school yearbook dress; many of them were hispanic; many were from the rustbelt, and a number were from the south.

It is sad to see these lives now ended, and of course there faces are an interruption amidst the talking heads who spin the war: is it a civil war or not? will it affect the next election or not? It is obvious that two religious movements within Islam are at war, one violent act following another, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. For the twenty, the terms are not so important, only that we acknowledge their sacrifices, among their fallen brothers and sisters: 2881 U.S. now dead since the war began in March, 2003, 2400 dead since the capture of Saddam Hussein, 21,700 wounded.

I wonder: what if we printed their faces on the covers our newspapers and magazines? What if we filled our public spaces with crosses, representing their lives? What if their flag-draped caskets could be photographed and kept as a symbol before us, rather than a ribbon bumper sticker.

In the silence, I see the young faces, and I pray that God will somehow intervene. That is my prayer, this Advent, and my hopes are grounded in the coming of the Prince of peace.


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