by Elizabeth T. Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
May 12, 2008
OUR VULNERABILITY IS SHARED
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- These are the times that try the people's souls and test the mettle of a poet's dreams.
Overhead the tornadoes dance a whirling dance of death, leveling an entire neighborhood ... dark anger on its way to nowhere. Half a world away, in a place called Myanmar unknown to most, a cyclone kills tens of thousands.
At the same time, cells of crazed terrorists plot big and launch little acts of pure hatred. From a match to light a forest fire to belted bombs of self-destruction, the suicide's last breath of air is sweetened by the slaughter of strangers standing nearby.
Nature against people. People against people. People against our saner selves.
In the latter lies our greatest enemy and our possible hope of planetary salvation.
If love resides in one human heart can hope be silenced? Where hope lives are not all things possible and doesn't "a better way" require only the willingness of one to change?
The war in each of us is both a personal and a collective war. We go sleepless into each dark night longing for external security for self and family ... security against the weather, expectation of fixed prices on a dozen eggs, government protection against the faceless, nameless "them." We insure our washing machines and mother's silverware, our automobiles and our fences around the back 40. We elect buffoons who swear to protect us from the burglar in the night and fanatics lurking beyond the hedges if we dare step outside our door. They cannot and do not.
And then the storm descends and the dreaded wind sucks our two-year-old from our arms. Our heavily insured roof flies away leaving us to face the dark sky that took away our false sense of security and the very fruit of our flesh. Little, we say, can we do about the weather for, like the poor, we have it with us always.
What price ignorance? What payment extracted for not thinking outside the lines of "the way it has always been"? What devastating reward for not connecting the minuscule to the cosmic?
We have always built our homes above ground. Only fools would live underground like moles.
And so we whimper and wait for the wild winds, praying all the while "Don't let it be me and mine, God. Take my neighbor down the street but don't take me." And our prayer goes unheard, our child is storm-dead, our precious prized possessions now only a memory.
Perhaps it is a poetic and ridiculous exercise to connect the litter a tornado leaves behind to the human tendency of rut-thinking. Perhaps I am too soon away from spending three recent long hours in a small dark room in a bathtub with two family members. Or perhaps only a poet could find hope in the flower children of yesterday who tried to tell us we could save ourselves, our water and our planet by showering with a friend and building an outhouse.
Those golden grown-up children dug deep holes in the side of a bank, built for themselves small mansions half in and half out of the good earth. Deep in the dirt in the back of the "house" was natural refrigeration, protection from the wayward winds, and their simple domicile was high enough above the creeks to pose no danger of flooding. They recycled everything, turning a plastic milk jug into a flower pot and painting works of art on the timber salvaged from an old barn.
Make love, not war, they cried. But we didn't listen.
Bigger and better we sang. If granddaddy built a 10-story building downtown, why ours must be 20 stories. Our homes for two must be big enough for 10. Our grand mother-bomb must become a grander grandmother bomb. The earth will replenish itself and is ours for the raping. Let's foul the air and dirty the streams. We are, after all, God's chosen species. Conquering is the game and Adam is the name.
Bigger and better bombs. Higher and haughtier buildings and attitudes. Me, me. Us against them.
I find the failed glory of the homo sapiens both fascinating and horrifying. We can fall to the lowest of the low, rise again, make bigger and worst mistakes, almost self-destruct again, and still we do not learn.
Conquer the great forest today. Master of the hemisphere tomorrow. And next week the world is ours.
Our arrogance is asinine; our ability to self-destruct staggering; and our bruised egos take shelter in the false gods of materialism.
Contrary to how the above mutterings may seem, I am by choice an eternal optimist. If only one tree is left standing in the forest I believe that tree is capable of seeding a new forest. If a Katrina reduces our land mass I trust we will learn to live on the water ... and beneath it. And if the Hitlers among us mesmerize the minds of the masses I believe with all my ragged poet's heart that from the back of the room a child will stand up and declare "Why should I follow you? You are not God."
Nature against people? Yes, but we still have time to prevent the great altering of the good earth with our bombs that contribute to the shifting of the ocean,s tides, earthquakes and tsunamis, Katrinas and nothing left of Main Street, U.S.A. We can make peace with a waning moon.
People against people? Yes, but we still have time to drop the defining of differences and hug the wonder of one world family.
People against ourselves? Yes, but the road signs are ample that lead to self-understanding and ego-eradication. Total security is a fool's paradise but the sweetness of a simple life this day is available. It requires only a love of others comparable to love of self; a commitment to reduce our obsession with possessions; a dedication to a better way that includes each member of our earth family.
For if the child standing alone on the shores of Myanmar is not safe, neither are we.
Elizabeth T. Andrews is a newspaper columnist now living in Cartersville, Ga. Her own Web site, www.treefamilyfoundation.com, contains other columns and poetry by her. She can be contacted at email@example.com or P.O. Box 816, Cartersville, GA 30120.