Snipers, Christmas & Kalashnikovs

. . . The Christian snipers holed up at the Holiday Inn were eventually brought down. One was a woman, her bloodied hair lying about her as still as she was. Jubilant gunfire exploded throughout the neighborhood. As soon as I heard the bullets, I ran the children into the bathroom and slammed the door shut. The concierge called me on the interphone. “Come to the balcony. Bring the children. Let them see this glorious event!” I took one look over the balustrade and dashed back into the bathroom. The militia who had brought the snipers down straddled the male killer to a car, one leg tied to each of the back wheels, and went bouncing him through the streets as his brains were scattering on the asphalt. It was a morbid, unbelievably vile act. I could not believe that I was being asked to expose my children to this wickedness!

. . . In December of 1975, about 200 Muslims going to work early in the morning were stopped at one of Beirut’s bridges. They were then killed by Christian militias – mostly by throat-slitting – and tossed over the bridge. Many were still alive. Vengeance!

At the time, my family of five, together with my brother and his wife, were living in the house with my parents. We had both left our apartments that were in more dangerous zones. For us Christians living in predominantly Muslim West Beirut, the terror and fear for our lives from retaliation was astounding. My father and brother went out and came back with a Kalashnikov. They practiced how to use it defensively. My sister-in-law – an American woman, born and raised in drama-free Milwaukee – flipped out and rushed to the bedroom sobbing in horror.

Christmas was a holiday that I had always gone way out for. The tree, the gifts, the cookies, the milk, the whole shebang! A week before that miserable Christmas, I gathered the kids – about 12, 8 and almost 4 years of age – and told them that Santa would not be flying over Beirut as his reindeer and sled might get hit by a missile and then all the children of the world would be miserable. No gifts!

I had also ordered a Christmas log cake. I cancelled that. My mother did not put up a tree. On Christmas Day we had one of my mother’s fabulous lunches then sat around in the living room gloomily listening to the news. My son, the almost 4, disappeared into our room. When he came out he was dressed in his red evening robe, had his red galoshes on, a cotton beard that he had fashioned from my mother’s makeup removal kit, and a pillowcase stuffed with all his toys and slung over his little shoulder. He then went around the room handing each of us a toy and wishing us a Merry Christmas. How on earth did my son come up with this? That event must have – must have! – left an indelible scar on my baby. That scar is still there, somewhere within him. I know that the two pills of Valium my doctor had me on at the time weren’t enough that day! I swallowed more. I did that more for many, many years to come!

And every day since then, we have been hearing the news of how much worse wars and their side effects can, and do, get!

Combat leaves its scum everywhere!

I have read many books about the two World Wars, about Vietnam, about Iraq, Afghanistan, the wars all over Latin America and Africa. I have watched the documentaries and movies. I have heard all there is to hear from the politicians and talking heads as they analyzed, dissected and opined about all these wars. None, zero, zilch comes even close to depicting the actual horrors and dreadfulness of personal and first-hand experience.

The effects of experiencing war, of course, depend entirely on where one is on the totem pole. The further down you go, the worse it definitely becomes! And, no, my memories, pains and agony are nothing to compare to others. I have, after all, led a very privileged life on the whole, albeit that I could not control most of its events, which is quite disconcerting, but not disastrous. However, for most of the war-torn populations of the world, combat is very traumatic and tragic!

As we celebrate Christmas, how I wish that we can think of all the needless and senseless wars occurring in our sorry world; catastrophes caused by multi-national corporations and misguided governments that are wreaking bloody mayhem all over the globe! Civilized? No, we’re not civilized at all! We just have a glitzy façade that hides our underlying bigotry, selfishness and savagery! And, isn’t that, after all, what all our Prophets and, especially, Jesus Christ was born to save us from? And we haven’t learned that lesson yet? When will it ever happen? Yesterday would be great, today is perfect!

Merry Christmas World!

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