Why does the world spawn so much violence? How is it that so many people house so much hatred in their hearts? I find it incomprehensible. It leaves me feeling overwhelmed and broken. Which is ridiculous when I consider the ones who literally are overwhelmed and broken.
I was planning on writing about all our Christmas plans for the upcoming week and the ensuing traditions that will unfold. But instead, watching the morning news and surfing my social media sites, I’m finding that such a blog post is entirely too saccharine, entirely too unpalatable amidst all the vitriol and violence technology has brought me this week. The cyber bullying of a teenage boy; the terrorist attack in a Berlin Christmas market, the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, and, most heart-wrenching of all, the Aleppo refugees struggling to find safety and loved ones in a war-torn life.
I can’t even.
One of the first unfair, unjust developments of this holiday week hit me on Saturday morning when I became aware of the twitter tirade against our beloved Canes quarterback – a high school student and the top junior player in the nation. He’s just a kid, folks. And while he’s not, technically, still a babe in arms, he’s a baby with an arm and he should not have to brace himself against the nastiness spewing from computer screens and smart phones simply because he chose to go play football at a college that he believes will be the very best fit for his life and his future. Key word here: HIS.
Now I know he has the stature and statistics of a man. I know he’s the number one recruit for 2018. I know he’s been heavily touted and scouted since he came up from the eighth grade. I know he breaks records and slings laser beams. But in the end, he’s still just a kid. He loves sour patch kids and his baby sister. He can’t buy tobacco or drive after midnight. He should be dealing with group projects and impending Senioritis. NOT with cyber bullying on a global (or at least Southeastern Conference scale) just because he picked an ACC school. He’s a KID, for goodness sake’s! Heck, he may even still believe in Santa Claus. And all of this hatred is being spewed over a GAME! A game designed to instill joy and an escape from reality on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons. My mother’s heart aches for him.
But if I’m being honest here, it aches the absolute most for his mama. Because when somebody attacks your baby – no matter how young or old – it tears a mama’s heart into brittle, jagged confetti. When my girls were growing up, I’d get all kinds of bent out of shape if anyone so much as looked at them sideways. I remember being ready to sucker punch a school bus bully when my baby girl was a kindergartner. I refrained. But I was ready. And just last year, an arrogant asshole of an attending said some hurtful things to my eldest, and I was ready to tear out his external carotid artery with my bare hands. But, again, I refrained. I don’t know how in the world I could refrain if there were basically thousands of ill-tempered SEC fans bad-mouthing my baby on social media for all the world to see. And it’s not limited to social media. Yesterday, while out and about town doing some Christmas shopping, my husband and I – proudly sporting our Canes championship shirts – had to listen to not one, but two negative nellies pontificate on our quarterback’s decision. I was thunderstruck. Really? Who are they to presume to know what’s best for him? All they had in their minds was what would benefit them and “their” team. (As if they truly had anything more than season tickets (maybe) and a college diploma (even more unlikely) and jersey purchases invested in those teams.) And that got me thinking — if WE had to listen to those zealous fans politic for their team, how many more have he and his poor family weathered over the last five days – and indeed the entire season? His mom’s grace is made of firmer stuff than mine, that’s for certain. I admire her poise and her polish. Her motherhood is paved on the high road, and I stand in awe.
So there’s that mama’s pain.For her, it’s been the best of times and the worst of times. But that mama’s pain pales in comparison to the anguish of the mama I saw on the nightly news this weekend. The mama who lost all her babies beneath the all-too-real onslaught of bombs and ensuing rubble in Aleppo. For her, it’s been the worst of the worst of the worst of times.
She was covered in dust, blood parting her swollen face like a Picasso portrait. She wandered aimlessly around a makeshift hospital crying in anguish. But still she finds the tenderness to comfort a toddler boy, hands and bare feet caked in chalk, forehead marked in blood. Both of them are marked in blood — the blood of the scapegoat that their people have become. A people punished brutally for the sins of others who care nothing for them or their plight. This sweet toddler boy (a boy roughly the age of my own toddler boys) is devoid of tears, his pudgy face paralyzed. Almost. If you look closely, you’ll spy the tiniest, quivering lip. He bites it instantly. He’s learned early to hide the hurt. But the mother – the mother who is not his – she wails. Her tears trace through the dust and drip to the floor, a floor smattered and smeared with blood and grit. All of her babies, lost. All. And then, she’s joined by a young teenage boy (a boy roughly the age of our young quarterback), and he’s carrying his infant brother. A baby brother who did not survive. These three broken humans huddle together, searching for comfort that cannot possibly come. As the reporter proclaims, they are “exhausted beyond words by a life beyond description.”
My mama’s heart agonizes for them. This Syrian mama, this mama whose pain is unreal to me. Cannot be fathomed by me. Pain that is the result of real weaponry, the result of deadly weaponry so far beyond the rantings and ravings of selfish cyber bullies that it seems ridiculous to discuss the two situations in the same blog. This young Syrian teen, this teen who, rather than throwing bombs into end zones, has been on the receiving end of bombs that have ended whole families. This precious toddler, who faces an existential lack and want and void that God-willing, our toddler boys will never, ever encounter. I cannot fathom the pain. My soul runs from the comprehension. It does not want to know. Does not want to understand. It would break me.
As a mother and an American, I feel guilty. Guilty for being so privileged by destiny that I live without such incomprehensible pain and loss. Guilty for uttering my previous, selfish, “God willing” statement. Guilty that I cannot do more than pledge a donation and remember these broken members of the human race in my prayers. Guilty that I am able to sit here, drafting this blog amidst my Christmas lights and wrapped presents, while making road trip preparations, drafting Christmas dinner grocery lists, and doing last-minute, on-line shopping. How can this world be simultaneously benign and oh-so-malignant?
A mother’s pain is a jagged, cutting pain. I have never felt pain like it before. And while I have felt a mother’s pain, I have never felt pain like either of these mothers’ currently feel – my football mama’s pain and our Aleppo mama’s pain. Both pains are torturous; but one is debilitating.
And I am helpless in the wake of their respective pains.
In this season where Christians celebrate a young virgin mother — a mother who also felt the pain of a world that turned against her son, a world that despised and destroyed him — I am saddened that we have not come very far and we have not learned very much. We are still doing terrible things to our sons. And to our daughters.To all fellow humans. We tear each other apart for our own selfish gains. And so often, we use God as the impetus. We destroy in the name of God the Father… or the god of football. Which is the more ridiculous? I do not know. I am disheartened.
But I am still hopeful. Because despite the fact that we are all inherently selfish, I know we are not all inherently cruel.
So I offer up words of kindness, words of prayer, and pledges of money and solidarity. It is all I know to do.
But I pray it will be enough. If enough of us do it.