Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rose Petals

"We were showered with what felt like heavy rose petals, but was, in fact, human flesh."

A few nights ago, I watched a documentary ("Bhutto") about Benazir Bhutto, 2-time female prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in December 2007.  She had returned to Pakistan from a multiple-year self-imposed exile for an election campaign rally.  Bhutto's story is interesting on many levels.   She was the oldest in her family and her father groomed her for leadership.  In a Muslim country, leadership would normally be passed from father to son, even if there was an older daughter.  Bhutto became the first female prime minister in a Muslim country, no small feat, given the general state of women in most Muslim-dominant countries.  That subject could be a post in itself, and maybe it will be someday.  Now I'd like to return to the quote. 

A previous attempt on Bhutto's life occurred a few months before she was killed.  A suicide bomber set off two bombs near the vehicle she was riding in.  Bhutto was unharmed but 136 people were killed and about 3 times that were injured.  The quote is a witness's description of the moments after the bombs went off.

Heavy rose petals that were actually human flesh.  A poetic description.  Beautiful in a sickening sort of way.  I wonder when those words were put to the events.  Did they come in the moments as the flesh was dropping, as her (I didn't get the speaker's name) mind tried to make what was going on slightly less horrific, slightly more manageable?  Were the words a defense mechanism- "these are rose petals falling, only rose petals"? Or did the comparison come later, as she grappled with how she could possibly explain what it felt like to be in a shower of flesh?  I don't know.

I can imagine rose petals falling.  Their delicate softness.  A deep red, saturated crimson.  The image of falling rose petals accompanies the image of a sweet flower girl, dropping the petals before the bride walks to her beloved.  The bride is certain that their union will be a lasting one.  It is quiet, or perhaps there is beautiful music, as onlookers stand attentively waiting to witness and participate in a joyful occasion.

Falling flesh.  Perhaps delicate and soft. A deep red, saturated crimson. A person filled with such hatred and certainty that dying in order to kill someone else seems reasonable.  Severing chances for any unity.  Screams, sirens?  People running in all directions, no longer onlookers, but potential targets in what was supposed to be a joyful occasion turned instantly into tragedy.  

These are things I cannot understand, even when I see pictures, even when I hear stories.  I have heard many stories.  I recently applied to go on a delegation to northern Iraq, one step (which I'll explain in a future post when plans are more definite) along a path that I hope and believe will take me back to Palestine. When I go to each place, I'm sure I will hear more stories. I wish that there were no such stories to tell.  I know there are too many.

I also know that each story is a story of survival, for there is a person alive to tell it.  Each story is a story of resilience and of hope, even when hope seems futile.  Each story is one that calls me, that calls anyone who knows it, to envision the delicate softness of people we don't know.  To express a saturated crimson passion for a more just world.  To be quiet and still in a world full of dissonant noise, so that ultimately we might not be onlookers, but participants in creating a joyful and peaceful world.  

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