Sunday, May 1, 2011

How can you sing when my children are drowning?

If you know me, you know I am not a religious person. It's pretty obvious pretty quickly, once you meet me. However, I always celebrate Passover. It's an important holiday for me, and not just because of matzo ball soup (although that is a wonderful thing). The most moving part of the ceremony, for me, has always been the part of the story where God closes the waters and drowns the Egyptians. In our family Haggadah, purchased by my parents at a yard sale long ago, the story says that when this happened "the angels began to sing in praise of God," and he stops their song and asks, "How can you sing when my children are drowning?"

The Egyptians are the "bad guys" in that story. They kept the Hebrews as slaves, beat them, killed their children. And yet, God mourned their deaths because death is never a cause for celebration. Death can be the best option, or the only option. It can be a relief from pain. Some would say it can even be a just punishment for a terrible crime, though I am not part of that some.

Deliberately killing a human being is not a reason for a party.

I will have more to say when I have had time to think and am not typing on my tiny ipod screen in bed. But the too-jubilant news of Osama bin Laden's assassination has made me so physically nauseated that I couldn't just fall asleep without saying something. This is what came to mind first.


Raphael Morris said...

How fascinating... I thought of exactly the same story upon hearing the same news. I wrote a poem based on it:

I hear the angels at the sea
Their songs of praise, their howls for blood
I ponder their philosophy
Their joy at drowning men of mud
Another death won't justice bring
No execution will take back
Souls lost to death, yet angels sing
To cries of prisoners on the rack
Have you angels hearts of stone?
Why, have you any hearts at all?
We mortal men, of flesh and bone
Do not rise from a fatal fall
But angels, you have heard the voice
Of the Master of heavens high
His call to stop, to not rejoice
As you see your nemeses die
But mortals learnt not this command
God's order men have never heard
Our ears weren't touched by this demand
Our minds processed no holy word
So Miriam beats her timbrel still
Moses and Israel sing their song
We loot and pillage, rape and kill
And don't know what we're doing wrong

Tell me what you think of it. Oh, and I'll get in touch with you. I find it quite fascinating that we both had the same - rather uncommon - reaction to the same news.


Gray said...

I'm with you on this. Last night I found myself wondering if I was the only left-ish person in the country who didn't feel like celebrating. Since OBL's death won't get us out of Afghanistan any faster (it might even keep us there longer), the only reasons I can think of to celebrate are A) closure for families of 9/11 victims or B) blood vengeance. I didn't lose anybody on 9/11, so A is out for me, and I don't think blood vengeance is an especially admirable human trait, so that's out too.

And, since I'm apparently an insufferable bleeding heart, I can't even say I'm glad he's dead. I'm glad he's no longer a threat, to be sure, but I don't believe he had to die for that to happen. I take no satisfaction whatsoever in the death of a human being, even one as repugnant and monstrous as OBL. That's just me, though; I don't intend to judge anybody else's reaction.