Sunday, July 20, 2014

Spiders in the Shower

I keep thinking about the spiders in the shower. The first morning I was at Cedars of Peace in my hermitage cabin set back in the woods, I opened the shower curtain to see a daddy long legs who had inhabited a  low corner of the shower stall. The next morning three spiders had taken up residence. One was hanging with the first spider on the wall opposite the shower head. The other had spun a web in the corner below the shower head.

I chose not to deliberately disturb them (perhaps due to a recent spider massacre via vacuum cleaner I'd carried out in my home), nor did I protect them. One of the new long-leggers was positioned in the line of fire of the water. The other received blows from the water dripping down. Each was pelted beyond their defenses. Each died.

Those spiders have been on my mind all week. I think of them as I hear the rising death toll from Gaza (among other places, but Gaza is closest to my heart) and see pictures of bodies, some living, some lifeless, all brutalized.

I think of my occupation of what had been spider territory. Despite my infringement, I suffered no harm. I'm not sure if I did any harm to the one spider who lived. Did I destroy his home? Perhaps. I couldn't actually see the web. Did I block him from leaving the shower? No. Did I control his access to food? No. This makes me a gentler occupier than Israel (at least until the killing). This year Israel has destroyed 329 Palestinian structures and has demolition orders  for many more. I don't believe that number includes the mass destruction going on in Gaza right now. Israel controls what goes in and out of Gaza and the West Bank. That includes food, supplies, and Palestinians. Israel has power over the coming and going of other folks, too, but their control is strongest over Palestinians, who cannot leave Gaza or the West Bank without a permit from Israel and even with the permit, they may be denied at the checkpoint. Many times I've heard the words "open-air prison" used to describe Palestine, and especially to describe Gaza. I've been hearing that in the last 12 days, Israel sometimes gives a warning to Gazans to evacuate an area before they begin bombing or shooting. Gaza is 139 square miles. There aren't too many places to go to escape the violence. Leaving Gaza is not an option.

I think of the power I have solely because I, compared to a daddy long legs, am pretty massive and forceful. I could have easily smashed a spider between my fingers, though I consider myself too civilized to do so. Thanks in part to the billions of dollars in aid the U.S. gives each year, Israel is a mighty power, far, far mightier than any Hamas militants and certainly more powerfully violent than the women and children who are trying to live but instead are dying at the hands of Israeli soldiers. Israel is obliterating any Gazan it chooses.

I think of my easy dissociation from the death of these other creatures of God - it wasn't deliberate, after all - and wonder if it is so easy for Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters. Was it so easy earlier today for Israeli soldiers to kill a man who, accompanied by international human rights workers, was looking for his family in a bombed out area? They shot him four times, while the others looked on, because otherwise they, too, might be killed. What about the four children on the beach a few days ago?  Or the other 300+ Gazans, many of whom were civilians? Collateral damage, that's all those people are, right? What about the few Israeli soldiers and 2 civilians who have been killed? How easy is it to kill someone, and someone else, and maybe more? How easy is it to recognize a common humanity among all people after doing so? How easy is it to feel one's own humanity after killing a person?

My heart is sick.  It is sick for those who have died. It is sick for those who have fallen into beliefs that make them want to kill or hurt. It is sick for my Palestinian friends who are grieving. One of my former students wrote to me today, "Even the weather was sad."

And so I pray. And so I stand on a street corner in protest and on another in vigil as the names of the deceased Gazans are read...age 6 months, age 75, age 17, age 22, age unknown... And I remember the spiders and the power I have to destroy the life and dignity of God's creation and the power I have to defend it. God help me to choose life, especially human life, and to defend it, even with my own. Always. 


  1. Cory, This is a such a moving reflection on the conflict. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much. Blessings to you.