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The artwork on this page, done in a variety of media, is by Kerfe Roig

 
 

The Everywhere Wars: An Introduction

On November 30, 2023, we asked members of the Persimmon Tree community to send us their thoughts on the “everywhere wars” that are currently assailing our planet and its inhabitants. These include, most prominently, the Russian assault on Ukraine, and the Israel-Hamas conflict. But they also include the “civil” wars in Sudan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and other troubled areas of our very small planet. We asked our readers for their thoughts on these essential and very difficult questions:

 

How do we… best cope with the clashing reactions and impulses that arise from these conflicts? How do we help others to cope? How do we confront the overwhelming emotions that have divided educational institutions, workplaces, friends, and families, and are contributing to an upsurge of anti-Semitic, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim violence and hate? How do we become part of the solution?

 

We’ve received a flood of thoughtful and thought-provoking responses — and we welcome more comments. It is a terrible truth that the conflicts mentioned above will almost certainly be distressing our planet for the foreseeable future. Read, below, what our community members have sent us to date. If you wish to add to this discussion, please use the “Comments” section at the end of the Forum. And please note: We respect all opinions. But, as we noted in our November 30 call for comments:

 

We’re asking for your thoughtful reflections—passionate, perhaps, but written without anger, without assigning rancorous labels to any nation, cause, or person.

 

Persimmon Tree is proud to publish the comments below, which we hope will produce a “ripple effect,” adding light to this dark and contentious time.
 
 
The Editors

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never understood war. The rules. The violence. The insanity. So when I was sixteen, I marched in anti-war rallies, received detention for distributing protest pamphlets without permission. At twenty I married a Vietnam vet, a helicopter gunner, who was wracked by PTSD, addiction, and anger issues (I naively thought I could help him). My second husband was also a vet, proud he served his country in the Coast Guard, but he hated every minute of his service. He still has nightmares. Our son, while deployed in Iraq, gave me nightmares—getting a call from military officials that he’d been injured by an IED still haunts me. Now, as I watch the news—first Ukraine, then Israel—I still don’t understand the pervasiveness, the ugliness of war. I am appalled by our lack of reason, civility, compassion, humanity. To cope, some of my friends and family have stopped listening to news. Some have stockpiled guns and fuel. Many are planting gardens, learning to preserve food, stocking up on medicines and other essentials. Me? I write poetry, hoping to make sense out of the senseless, perhaps one day proving that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” 
 
Shirlee Jellum
Lyle, Washington

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luisa May Alcott left home in 1862 for service as a nurse at the Union Hotel hospital near Washington, D.C. “A more perfect pestilence-box than this house I never saw.” She served until typhoid pneumonia sent her home. She wrote Hospital Sketches, a short, powerful report of what she saw. Read it in an afternoon, but never forgot it.
 
In my family, generations of men answered a call to sights, smells, fears, and revulsions they never imagined, and returned broken in ways seen and unseen. My grandfather was gassed in the “war to end all wars,” so-called. He lost a lung, among other losses too horrible to tell a grandchild. When my father splashed onto Omaha Beach on D-Day, his weapon was shot out of his hands. I learned that at his funeral; he never spoke of war to his daughters. My brother has endured the horrors of Vietnam in his nightmares for 56 years, among the few things he remembers now. 
 
We, the children of the warriors, are not helpless. Be a witness. Inform yourself no matter hw horrible. Be a voice. Show your outrage by caring for victims however you can. 
 
Marcia Calhoun Forecki
Council Bluffs, Iowa

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is now.
 
Jews, Arabs, and foreign citizens of Israel have been hidden away as hostages in darkness.
 
Those in Gaza and the West Bank live in shadows of dust and ash. And I sense this tragedy will drag on and on. 
 
Do I sleep at night? Not always. Do I mourn? Yes. Pray for peace, for healing.
 
I write letters, post on social media, sign petitions. Share news and articles with friends. Sing, swim, and garden. 
 
My Jewish lunar calendar tells me to start lighting the menorah tonight. Hannukah is based on a legend of transforming darkness into light—that somehow, in search of freedom, a light will blot out darkness and pain. We start with one candle lit with the Shammes, lead candle. Night two, a total of three flames appears, including the lead candle, and so on, multiples of these numbers until day eight. It is a tradition to display the menorah in a window, to celebrate freedom. But will I?
 
I have lived through enough history to know that when war ends, and the final inventory of destruction is tallied, one has a choice. Mine will be to keep my eyes, my ears, and my heart open.
 
Marianne Goldsmith
Oakland, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the Whole World Feels at War
 
My mother taught me this: If there’s nothing you can do to fix something big, if it’s too big for your hands, then do the next right thing. So I’ve gone back to baking the big pans of cookies, brownies, blondies, and snacking cakes that I made when my kids kept bringing other kids home with them. Sometimes I even indulge in cinnamon rolls or frosted cupcakes. I divide them up onto paper plates (compostable) and deliver them to the houses nearest to mine. Mostly they haven’t learned each other’s names, so I linger on the doorsteps and tell them news about each other: the woman who’s gone back to an office after cancer, the unexpected lamb born to the new farmers, recovery from autoimmune symptoms, torn shoulder. Who’s giving away chairs or old tools. Repeatedly, I tell them the names of the families and dogs around them. It’s so easy to hate difference right now; if there’s a name with each face, hate will be harder. My mother taught me that.
 
Beth Kanell
Waterford, Vermont

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kill It with Beauty
 
When someone says “Never again,” I think yeah, sure… Since the atrocities of WWII, “again” has happened how many times? Perhaps not exact replicas but close enough: ongoing brutality leading to suffering and death.
 
For this we can thank the human traits that Carl Jung called the “Shadow Self.” Though we all have it, in many folks it’s hidden, as if in the shadows. Jung posited that if people paid more attention to their greed and rage, jealousy and arrogance, the traits would have less power. 
 
So how’s that working? How will wars and other acts of hatred ever stop… unless human nature undergoes radical transformation?
 
Short of that miracle we have the obvious: each of us, besides becoming more aware of our hidden malice, must fortify the Shadow Self’s opposite… cascade light upon features like generosity, love, and kindness. We can also tangibly help the victims of men’s Shadow Selves by giving money and goods. 
 
And finally, as writers and artists we can create, focusing on the aspects of humanness we would like to see along with those we don’t… bringing the Shadow Self into the foreground and slaying it, metaphorically.
 
Denise Beck-Clark
Yonkers, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandra Morris
Oakland, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

War And Its Effects on Us All 
 
I experience war vicariously. Even so, it assaults my senses, my soul. I do not live in a country where war is raging. Yet I feel assaulted by images of the dead and bombed-out buildings. I feel hatred for the leaders who send men and women to war to crush and kill, maim and rape without regard for human life. I’m perplexed by ordinary people, who in becoming members of the military morph into either heroes or savages. 
 
All happening as I sit safely in my home and sleep soundly. I am ashamed. I feel helpless, sad, and nearly hopeless. 
 
Yet, I owe it to these men, women, and children: the living and the dead.  I owe it to all whose innocence has died, even those sent to fight.  
 
I’m only one person, a 74-year-old woman. I pray I never stop caring, never stop advocating for change. I’m not without personal power. Especially the power of words. I write. I write. I write to leaders in our own and other nations begging for war to cease. I pray. I pray. I pray, imploring God to change hearts. Please, God. I pray. I write. I hope.  
 
Linda F. Piotrowski
Green Valley, Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Cannot Take Sides
 
I don’t know how to take sides. That is what breaks me. When I was young, my family fled Indonesia. We escaped as Dutch people but wanted to stay as Indo. We couldn’t. The sniper bullets aimed at my parents made clear that our skin, our religion, or our ethnicity—something—needed to leave.  I remind myself that my father defended colonialism while my uncle suffered at the hands of yet a different colonial power.  I am the finger on the trigger and the wound. These stories of familial trauma thread their way into my life even now, and I always ask myself, “Am I the oppressor? Am I the oppressed?” If I can accept that I am both, it keeps me human. It helps me forgive. It helps me grow compassion. It helps me stay broken.
 
Anke Hodenpijl
Bakersfield, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

I admit my ignorance about the politics of the wars between Israel and Hamas, Russia and Ukraine. Are they about economics, power, or fear of those who are different? 
 
I’m a nurse, and a Muslim patient taught me an important lesson. I knew little about her cultural practices. Before she awakened from surgery, I asked her family what I could do to respect her faith and beliefs. I facilitated their requests. The woman was a quiet, modest human being. She started to bleed from a place where she had a drain removed. It was the weekend. No doctors were on the unit. I applied pressure, but could not get the bleeding to stop. I sat with my finger plugging the bleeding site for an hour. We had no choice but to get to know each other. We joked about our newfound closeness. The doctor came and fixed the problem with one stitch. Once the problem was solved, her family asked me to join them for dinner in the waiting room. I was honored. 
 
We live in a global community. 
 
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…” Nietzsche knew this long ago.
 
Cynthia Stock
Garland, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the best way to deal with conflict, at any level, is to find peace of mind. If, in truth, you can find some understanding of yourself, accept who and how you are, then you will have the confidence to face difficult situations that might arise in life in a more peaceful manner. If you can develop a sense of honor, with truth as your banner, surely this will build trust and show dignity in the face of any conflict. Anger, to my mind, not only loses the argument but removes any dignity you might have had.
 
We may all have some conflict within us at some point in our lives; are we part of the problem as well as the solution? Should we start, perhaps, to resolve the conflict within, to resolve any conflict without?
 
And should we not be able to live alongside others who might be different to us? The positives that can arise from curiosity, what we might learn from each other, is that not worthwhile? Who knows, bridges might be built that can sustain a future that sees a better balance and a more reflective response to heal our minds and our planet.
 
Julia Griffin
Laxfield, Suffolk
United Kingdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have always defined myself as a Reform or even secular Jew. My Jewish identity has never really included a significant kinship with Israel, with whose government I have often disagreed.   However, when the unimaginably brutal Hamas massacre was perpetrated, I almost took it for granted that the world would rally around the Israeli victims – both the murdered and the kidnapped. I certainly was not prepared for the devastating rise in anti-Semitism that has occurred seemingly everywhere.  I feel more Jewish than ever. I also feel less safe than I have ever felt, realizing that even here in the U.S., the mere fact of my being Jewish can cause a complete stranger to hate me.
 
Two of my adult granddaughters are Orthodox Jews with deep ties to Israel. To them, this war is unambiguous: it is an existential struggle for the survival of the Jewish state, being fought against nihilistic Palestinian terrorists whose mission is to eradicate Israel and all Jews. The plight of the Palestinians does not particularly concern them. Sometimes I wish my feelings were that straightforward. Since October 7, I have been experiencing emotional and cognitive whiplash: “Yes, but on the other hand,” is a haunting refrain.  
 
Carol Nadell
New York, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

The effects of global conflicts and wars are devastating to witness. The emotional pain is palpable and often manifests physically – unrelenting tension headaches, body aches, nausea. And then the shroud of perpetual sadness takes over and one weeps daily with feelings of futility and helplessness at this world situation. I suppose this is a normal reaction to the ugliness of war, to this unimaginable loss of life of the innocent. 
 
What is not normal is being asked to reflect without anger. Hate based on long-time historical happenings can lead to war, but what has unfolded in Israel is about evil, the pursuit of evil, the love of evil. It was not hard to see both sides of this conflict once, until evil came to town to gleefully destroy humanity, to partake in depravity and pretend it is justice. No, it is not. Is God not the same God for Muslims, Jews, and Christians? Yes. Are empathy and compassion and the love of all children not universal human feelings? Not if you are a lover of evil. There should only be one side, a joining of people against the common enemy: evil. 
 
I heard a Colonel say a few weeks ago: “If only they had built irrigation ditches instead of war tunnels …” Imagine trying to co-exist with your neighbors and allowing mutual understanding to bloom in those irrigated and ploughed fields. Imagine the notion of a little prosperity and self-respect due to more self-sufficiency. Imagine a sense of peace and safety for both sides and the real possibility for statehood. But then the lovers and doers of evil would be out of a job. 
 
Sylvia Fioelli
Ontario, Canada

 

 

 


The artwork on this page, done in a variety of media, is by Kerfe Roig

 

 

At what point do human lives matter? In times of extremity people argue that acts of violence are defensive. But bombs don’t defend and don’t discriminate. They fall without mercy on structures that house and sustain humans—mothers and fathers who pull their children to them in a futile attempt to shield them, who would gladly die for them, but more often die with them. The bombs yield an astonishing number of bodies. One bomb might kill 150 innocent people yet fail to reach its intended target. There are no enemies here, only bodies shrouded in white cloth, rocked by grievers who hold the stiff, bagged corpses tightly to them in a death grip, unwilling to let go. Family members fix a dead child’s hair, wipe a bloodied face clean before consigning it to the earth. Sometimes a cat, sensing something is terribly wrong, curls up atop a small still body and won’t be cajoled away. This is the power of love. Until we see all bodies as loved, loving, fully human, the bombings will not stop. And death makes everything else impossible. The most immediate urgency is unconditional ceasefire, right now. Stop the killing, for a chance at life. 
 
Lisa Suhair Majaj
Latsia, Cyprus

 

 

 

 

 

 

The world is on fire. No sentient or compassionate being can ignore the cruelty and chaos around us. For me, one coping strategy is specificity. I rely on it in my poetry, and I think it might serve us well when we are inundated with horrors. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the amount, complexity, unpredictability, irrationality of the violence that keeps emerging, but calling attention to the specifics of those lives intruded upon – or ended – is both incredibly painful and, ironically, healing. Roland Barthes, in Camera Lucida, proposes the studium and punctum of a photograph – the social, historical, cultural context “pierced” by unintended, emotional, subjective responses. This is where we must live in the midst of horror. Of all of the losses in Israel/Gaza, for example, I am most haunted by the deaths of Shiri Bibas, her ten-month-old baby, and her toddler son. In photographs, the children are both redheads, such a piercing detail. And I imagine their mother still nursing, doing what she could to protect and comfort them. These small details of their existence must remind us not to allow violence to erase our humanity. Acknowledging the specificity of victims’ lives keeps us human, which is our only currency and hope.    
 
Deborah Kelly Kloepfer 
Buffalo, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israel, 2023:  Life, Interrupted
 
Plans thwarted, independence halted, they search for meaning in everyday lives no longer ordinary. 
 
One shared a fairytale house with two friends in a university town close to Lebanon. 
 
The other trekked in India, making plans for her future.  All was aborted for a swift return home.  
 
For both, an unimagined life.  Friends fighting, some dying, all grieving.  
 
I search for ways to comfort them, these two beloved granddaughters.  I say, “Imagine you are in your cozy bed in the attic of our house. I lie between you; our arms are intertwined. We breathe in the stories told and listened to over and over since you were children. Close your eyes.”  Now I whisper, “Listen and remember. You are always in my heart.” Your eyes flutter closed. I kiss you both and tiptoe out of the room.  I will keep you safe. You are my heart.
 
Gail Arnoff
Shaker Heights 
Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s important for me to maintain a both/and perspective.  Which is to say, I acknowledge that multiple things can be true at the same time.  I am experiencing, perhaps in an unprecedented personal way, the moral distress that comes from witnessing widespread violence and the human suffering that is saturating our world.  In response, I believe that small acts matter.  As best I can, I make monetary contributions to causes that are important to me, and I use my voice to advocate for greater humanitarian support where needed.  At the same time, I am careful to attend to the enduring beauty of the earth (the garden, the rising sun, the daily walks) and attune to the moral beauty modeled by many of my fellow human beings.  I am inspired by Ross Gay’s comment in The Book of Delights:  “the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.”   We cannot, must not, turn away and ignore the bad.  And we must insist on, persist in looking for the good.   
 
Linda Budan
Newberg, Oregon

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shunning
 
I hide who I am. 
 
I dare not place a Menorah in my window while my neighbors hang Christmas decorations.
 
A Reform Jew, I practice Judaism in the least restrictive way compared to the Orthodox and Hassidic. 
 
Unlike most Orthodox, I do not live in a Jewish community. 
 
I had friends devoted to Orthodox Judaism, until the October 7, 2023, Hamas–Israel war.
 
I grieve for the Jewish families taken hostage and murdered by these militants. 
 
Still, I also mourn for the Palestinian families who died.
 
Since I voiced my empathy for both these groups, my Jewish friends have shunned me.
 
Palestinian families are not Hamas supporters due to their ancestry and religion. They want to raise their kids and go to work like parents everywhere.
 
This war has brought bloodshed to victims of hate crimes against Jews and Palestinians in the U.S. and other countries.
 
Politicians, media, and entertainment personalities are pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel. They are criticized for their stance, too. 
 
Demonstrations have turned violent. Empathy from people for both these groups seems impossible. 
 
Against the Vietnam war in the ‘60s, I wish to wave a magic wand to stop wars and bring peace throughout the world. 
 
Marilyn June Janson
Mesa, Arizona

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Israel/Hamas war has struck deep responses in us about hope and hopelessness and human nature.  I don’t have any solutions or answers, but I know there are things, moments we need to remember from it. Not to lose sight of. Like the 85-year-old woman peace activist hostage who didn’t let what happened to her change who she was or what she did. I hope we remember her name when this is over: Yocheved Lifshitz.
 
She shook her captor’s hand before he let her go and said, “Shalom.” One of the most powerful, moving words I’ve ever heard, a parting gift.  A simple, shocking, courageous, creative act. That word, her word, the word on which she had built her life was more than a word, more precious to her, even in that moment, than her own life which he still held captive.
 
And he took her hand, accepted it. For whatever reason. A glimmer of hope? I don’t know.  Perhaps easily dismissed. An old woman. A terrorist. I don’t know. But I hope we won’t lose sight of it and moments like it as they happen war after war after war. 
 
Rosetta Radtke 
Savannah, Georgia

 

 

 


The artwork on this page, done in a variety of media, is by Kerfe Roig

 

 

 

John Oliver and The Israeli-Hamas War
 
I recently walked with a friend who is Muslim, and who felt strongly that the violence perpetrated on Palestinians was being minimized. Unsatisfied with my response to her, I searched online for information, and found John Oliver on the Israeli-Hamas War.
 
I did not know that during the 2006 election, Hamas promoted themselves as an “open-minded organization that believes in democracy and freedom and political pluralization.” There have been no subsequent elections.
 
I did not know that seventy-three percent of Gazans favor a peaceful settlement with Israel.
 
I did not know that Israel protested for peace for a full 40 weeks before the October 7 attack.
 
I did know that Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was censored for a comment made in support of Palestinians and, some believe, in support of Hamas, but I did not know that Brian Mast, a Florida congressman, wore his Israeli military uniform to the Capitol and said, “… there are very few innocent Palestinian citizens.”
 
If you can equate the “innocent” with the seventy-three percent who want peace (seems reasonable), then this does not seem like “very few innocent Palestinian citizens.” 
 
Sometimes I wonder if our lawmakers should be watching John Oliver.
 
Patricia Dutt
Ithaca, New York 
 
NOTE: This is an excerpt from “The Counterculture, Comedians, and Commentary,” an essay by the author on substack; see  The Counterculture, Comedians, and Commentary – by Pat Dutt (substack.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

No one wins a war. We kill others, we kill ourselves; we all lose. The current crisis in Israel and Palestine is beyond heartbreaking. We cannot just sit back and watch, yet even for peace and social justice activists, it is so overwhelming that it tempts us to close our eyes to protect our own humanity. There are many more hostages than the ones who have become poker chips amid the recent mass destruction. So much trauma and history on both sides.  
 
Sometimes my heart is so heavy I feel guilty for moments of joy and beauty. But we must nurture those tender plants and restore our souls as we look for ways we can help. One of my mantras is “Wage kindness.” In every encounter, even in the most impersonal situations, I look for ways to reach out and connect with small acts of generosity, kindness, joy; a conversation, a gesture, looking people in the eyes and recognizing that they, too, have lives of struggle and complexity. There is so much anti- (fill in the blank) in our world. What if we all could be pro-humanity, embracing all we have in common while respecting our differences? 
 
Kathy Taylor
Buena Vista, Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hatikvah” (The Hope) was the lullaby that my mother sang to us. If there was still light in our room when she sang I could see that her eyes grew moist. Her voice grew husky. Her family had escaped pogroms in Poland by emigrating to America. And although no one in our family ever migrated to Israel, the idea of an independent state where Jews could create a democracy and live safely had a magical quality. But during the past two terrible months I have thought more about missed chances than about magic. What if the Palestinians and the Israelis, the two indigenous groups whose homeland is a desert between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, had not blown the opportunity to share the land, to live together in peace? What a flourishing of cultures, of literature, of education, of science and medicine they would have created, a garden in the desert where everyone would thrive. But I refuse to lose hope. There are people of good will on both sides who are committed to working for peace. They may still achieve a two-state solution. The alternatives are unthinkable.
 
Susan Glassman 
St. Louis, Missouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.  It was probably 65 years ago. 
 
My friends and I were swinging at our local neighborhood park in Brooklyn.  A group of pre-pubescent gangsters approached us.   “You’re a bunch of Christ killers.”
 
Really?  Did they mean Jesus Christ?  I had been to a church and the sight of him on a cross with blood dripping down his body scared me. Did I have anything to do with killing him?  
 
That was my first encounter with antisemitism. In a primarily Jewish neighborhood – the kind where schools were closed on the High Holy Days.
 
Of course, later on, I learned.  About persecution.  About the Holocaust.  I had lost some relatives, and the man who later became my husband lost many.
 
And now, antisemitism has reared its ugly head.  It never went away.
 
Shall I do all I can to assimilate?  Or lie about my religion?  Do I put up Christmas decorations like all my neighbors do?
 
No.
 
I am a 75-year-old Jewish American woman – proud of my heritage.  Of who I am.  Fear yields power to the oppressor.  I am not a victim.  Not now, not ever.  Not even at age 10. 
 
Ellen Reichman
Kirkland, Washington

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whispers in The Shadows 
 
In the quiet shadows cast by the deafening echoes of distant battles, friendships unravel like delicate threads caught in the turbulence of war. Across vast landscapes, governments dance a tango of power, their discordant steps resounding in the homes of those torn between loyalties. 
 
A letter, inked with the weight of separation, bears the silent testimony of a sibling lost to ideological rifts. In the dim light of a kitchen, an empty chair echoes the laughter of a friend now swallowed by the abyss of conflict.
 
Tensions, like a persistent storm, hover above our lives, obscuring the once-clear skies of camaraderie.
 
How do we confront this emotional tempest? Do we stitch the fabric of fractured relationships with the resilient thread of empathy, or do we succumb to the bitter winds of division? 
 
In the heart of this chaos, we, the silent witnesses, must find the courage to navigate the labyrinth of emotions and rediscover the common humanity that binds us all.
 
Concetta Pipia 
New York, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

War and Its Effect on Us All
 
I don’t cope well with the racism, violence, and wars happening all over our world. I limit how much time I allow the sensationalized news to invade the quiet space in my home. I pray. I pray a lot. I reach out to those I know who are directly or indirectly affected by the chaos in the world to let them know I am praying. I post humanitarian stories, insights, or thoughts on my social media to encourage others to read, contemplate, and try another way. The email requests for financial assistance are constant, and I doubt my $3 will help anyone. I feel that those who are suffering need freedom more than anything else. When able, I attempt to be part of a solution by paying for the person behind me in line, hoping in some small way, they will pay it forward and forward and forward, and reach everyone around the world to let them know they matter.  And, I pray. 
 
Patricia Chaloux
Green Valley, Arizona

 

 

 


The artwork on this page, done in a variety of media, is by Kerfe Roig

 

 

 

In October, my husband and I, along with our daughter Liz and her husband and children, attended a ceremony in Pawtauket, Rhode Island, at the grave of his great-grandparents Frank and Mary Byrne, who were implicated in the Phoenix Park murders. The invitation had come to us out of the blue, issued by the Fenian Memorial Committee of America. Nine-year-old Claire was initially charmed by the thought of famous forebears. When it was explained to her that Frank Byrne had plotted to kill a perceived Irish oppressor and that his wife, Mary Moneypenny Byrne, had smuggled the weapons, surgical instruments, from England into Ireland under her petticoats, Claire was baffled. “So, they were murderers?” she asked. When my husband repeated this to a member of the Fenian Memorial Committee, he said, “We don’t call them murderers; we call them assassins.” After reading up a bit on the turmoil in Ireland, Claire is currently in sympathy with the Byrnes. 
 
Were the Byrnes patriots or terrorists? Freedom fighters or anarchists? Heroes or villains? What stance do we adults take? With regard to world-wide troubles past and present, it’s not easy to find one’s moral bearings. We must listen to everyone’s story.
 
Barbara McGillicuddy Bolton
Brooklyn, NY, USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do We Cope?
 
We give. With our hearts, our guts, our hugs, our tears, our dollars. We give with phone calls to relatives, friends, acquaintances seven thousand miles away. With intakes of breath, jaws clenched. We hold one another’s hands. We pray. More, harder than we have prayed before. We scroll through Instagram and pause at posts of reunions between soldiers and children, soldiers and parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, friends. We scroll past posts of people pulling posters from walls and lamp posts. We talk and talk and talk to like-minded friends. We commiserate. We reassure one another that this is an aberration, not a permanent state of being there and here. We text our grandchildren on college campuses across the country. We have headaches. Our hair falls out. We are short-tempered and thin-skinned. We wonder if perhaps this is the time to leave. To go to the one place in the world that is truly home. The place that loves us because of who we are. We cope with sadness and pride. And hope. 
 
Anna Gotlieb
New Milford, New Jersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Politics of Revenge

As a child, I used to wonder why sovereign states had the right to send their male citizens to military service. Reading political science at university eventually introduced me to Thomas Hobbes and others who said citizens owe allegiance to the state in exchange for protection.
 
Whatever, however, war is inherently insane. Losing a war breeds the politics of hatred and with hatred, deeply rooted bitterness. Next comes revenge, believing that retaliation will even the score. “An eye for an eye,” however, accomplishes nothing. As we learned from Gandhi, such behavior only results in making the whole world blind. Think about WWI, and how the armistice resulted in WWII when German humiliation demanded revenge.
 
Revenge is the enemy.  It gives legitimacy to the belief that “our misery is greater than yours” and “we have a monopoly on suffering.” Is this not the rationale for the current war between Israel and Hamas?
 
Neuroscientists, however, know that retaliation never gives the satisfaction it promises. Research confirms people are not satisfied after engaging in acts of revenge. Imagine how Israel and Hamas will feel after killing children, raping women, starving the old, withholding medicine and contaminating drinking water.
 
Nancy Graham Holm
Aarhus, Denmark

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operation Baby Lift II
 
I know the story because she told it so many times. Saigon, April 1975. She was five months pregnant. Her husband was helping the Americans those last days of the war. 
 
She took it upon herself to venture into the city, holding hands with her three little boys — ages eight, six, and four. The streets were at a standstill, a morass of desperate humanity. Thick smoke hung in the air. Helicopters flew low. 
 
Finally at the Embassy, volunteers offered to take her three sons and put them on a plane to America. Take them? They gave the boys candy. You’ll have new bicycles. Fresh air. But if she wanted her boys on Operation Babylift II, she would have to say they were orphans and give them up for adoption. But they are not orphans. They are my sons.
 
Then the news: the first plane crashed, killing half the children and nuns on board. 
 
Quickly! The plane is boarding. She wept, utterly bereft. She sniffed the children’s hair. 
 
Please —I’ll do anything. Two volunteers led the older boys away. She kept her youngest behind. 
 
Is this so impossible to imagine? Would you? For your child’s safety? Would I? 
 
Audrey Minutolo Le
Orono, Maine

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am Jewish and have suffered antisemitism, especially in my early life when my hometown was segregated racially and religiously. Yet being Jewish has always meant, to me, justice for all. As I have learned about the oppressive situations in Gaza (an “open air prison” according to Human Rights Watch and others) and the West Bank, and the ongoing appropriation of Palestinian farms and homes by Jewish settlers, I came to support justice for the Palestinians. However, I believe in the sacredness of all life, and deplore both the Hamas attack on innocent civilians and the disproportionate reaction of the powerful Israeli military, killing 14,000 Palestinians, over half of them children. I do not see an answer to this tragic situation, as Netanyahu has successfully destroyed any hope of a two-state solution. Few seem to know that he secretly supported Hamas vs. the PLO, precisely for that reason.
 
As a human being and Jewish-Buddhist-Unitarian, I can only stand for an end to the killing: a Cease Fire Now. Violence begets violence. As Gandhi purportedly said, “An Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
 
Dr. Susan Jhirad
Medford, Massachusetts

 

 


The artwork on this page, done in a variety of media, is by Kerfe Roig

 
 
 

Thirty Years Hence, A Novel
by Denise Beck-Clark
  This debut novel provides a wonderful sense of the New York City of the 1970’s. Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, squalid six floor walk-ups and posh co-ops, streets crowded with hustlers and cabbies, all come to life. The bars Michelle frequents have characters right out of central casting. The reader becomes submerged in the sights, sounds, and smells of NYC. Beck-Clark does a great job of tackling weighty topics in a way that inspires introspection without detracting from the narrative flow. Given the exploration of trauma, it might not always be a comfortable read, but it is an important one. - Erin Britton, San Francisco Book Review 
 The novel’s plotlines are excellently weaved throughout, and the novel’s narrative moves ever forward, with several twists and turns maintaining the interest of the reader. The characters are fully developed as the reader gains a large measure of intimacy with them and identifies with their struggles and motivations. At the end of the day, Beck-Clark succeeds in spinning a true to life tale of Holocaust memory, trauma, and recovery, that is both sad and inspiring. - David Keenan, Manhattan Book Review Available at Amazon.com, B&N, Apple, Bookshop.org, and most booksellers online and in bookstores. For more information: www.denisebeck-clark.com

Artist's Bio

A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blogs, https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/.