Sunday, May 27, 2007

On Madeleine McCann and war in Iraq

English wasn't really my subject at school; English literature was the only 'O' level I failed. Poetry in particular tended to pass me by, with one or two exceptions. One of those exceptions was a poem that has come to mind several times since, usually triggered by something in the news. Madeleine McCann, in this instance. I'd searched for it on the web but not found it until now.

Death of a Whale by John Blight

When the mouse died, there was a sort of pity;
The tiny, delicate creature made for grief.
Yesterday, instead, the dead whale on the reef
Drew an excited multitude to the jetty.
How must a whale die to wring a tear?
Lugubrious death of a whale; the big
Feast for the gulls and sharks; the tug
Of the tide simulating life still there,
Until the air, polluted, swings this way
Like a door ajar from a slaughterhouse.
Pooh! pooh! spare us, give us the death of a mouse
By its tiny hole; not this in our lovely bay.
-- Sorry, we are, too, when a child dies:
But at the immolation of a race, who cries?

Anyone living outside the UK or perhaps Portugal may not be aware of the media furore that this little girl's disappearance has caused. Likewise the shootings at Virginia Tech in the US - they made the news here too, because they were in America. (As an aside, I was moved by the VT incident to learn to play Razorlight's song America, although wisely I didn't follow through my original idea and post a clip of me playing it on YouTube.)

There's a part of me that wants to point out at this point how many 3-year olds are dying in the Iraq war, or because they're hit by cars, or due to AIDS in Southern Africa. Churlish it may be, but it's a fair point. That's the point of the poem; that's the point I was both trying to make and trying to avoid making when I started writing this post. I do think it's sick that we give all this fuss to one little girl while the death of a dozen Iraqis in a roadside bomb barely makes a line in the "and also" column; but I wouldn't want to insult Madeleine's poor parents by implying that the loss of their little girl is anything less than the tragedy they and the media have made it out to be.

But what's just struck me is this: God doesn't see things in numbers. One untimely death is no less and no more terrible to him than a million. They all matter equally because they are all people made in his image.

In the same way, Jesus did not die to save the world, and me just a small part of it; he died for me personally.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Quote of the day

"Where the **** did Jesus say it was ok to kill people for your government?"

US Soldier, Iraq

as reported by Eliot Weinberger: