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Expected losses

I went camping over the weekend. Away from the news for three days. From what I’ve seen of this morning, most of it was bad. Very bad. People died. Many people died for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, their deaths seem somehow more tragic because they were so completely unexpected. Madness which turns a troubled soul towards the destruction of others is always shocking. We try to make sense of it after the fact, piecing together all the red flags we missed leading up to the tragedy so that it doesn’t happen again, all the while conceding to the sad fact that it probably will.

Madness which turns a troubled soul towards its own destruction is rarely shocking. Singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home on Saturday. The official cause of death has not been released pending autopsy, but I doubt there is anyone who has ever heard of her who assumes it wasn’t drug and/or alcohol related. Her addictions were well documented and played out in front of the world, her talent overshadowed by our fascination with her self destruction.

Amy Winehouse, dead at 27 years of age to no one’s surprise. Perhaps that’s the saddest element of her death.

The death of Osama bin Ladin

My friend Billy Coffey wrote a very eloquent post today about the death of Osama bin Laden. This one won’t be nearly as eloquent.

I awoke Monday morning to a strange question from my husband, who was already dressed and heading out the door:

“Have you checked Twitter this morning? What are they saying?”

“What are they saying about what?” I said.

“They got him. Special Ops took out bin Laden. He’s dead.”

My first reaction? Relief.

Was I happy he was dead? Absolutely.

I turned on the television and saw people celebrating in Time Square and outside the White House. I can’t say I was completely comfortable with seeing these images, but I also understood that the death of Osama bin Laden was a victory for the United States. A big one. On Twitter, I saw some tweets comparing Americans celebrating the death of bin Laden to the images of celebrations in the Middle East when news of the Twin Towers burning got to them. I disagree with that assessment:

Celebrating the successful execution of a planned military strike against a long sought after enemy is not the same as celebrating the death of 1000’s of innocent people. #BinLadenDead – @katdish

Perhaps I should mourn his death; be saddened as a Christian because based on my faith I believe one of God’s children will spend eternity in hell.

But I don’t and I’m not.

He chose evil. He was not executed. According to news briefings from the White House Monday, he was shot in the head while engaged in battle against an elite Special Ops team. He was given the opportunity to surrender. Instead, this mass murderer chose to resist. According to one White House official, he used one of his wives as a human shield against the soldiers’ bullets to no avail. She was also a casualty.

In the end, this man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, this man who encouraged young men to die in the name of Allah, this man who only valued one life–his own, died as he lived.

As a coward.

May God have mercy on his soul.

As for me, I will not mourn his death. The world is a better place without him in it. Instead, I will mourn the deaths of his victims and the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and the freedom of others around the world. People who lived and died with honor.

(I don’t expect everyone to agree with my sentiments here. This is simply an honest expression of my view of these events.)

On writing, righting and apathy

image from

The above photo depicts a brutal form of execution known as necklacing, carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with petrol, around a victim’s chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process. The practice became a common method of lethal lynching during disturbances in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s.

Photojournalist Kevin Carter was the first to photograph a public execution by necklacing in South Africa in the mid-1980s. He later spoke of the images:

“I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing. But then people started talking about those pictures… then I felt that maybe my actions hadn’t been at all bad. Being a witness to something this horrible wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing to do.”

He went on to say:

“After having seen so many necklacings on the news, it occurs to me that either many others were being performed (off camera as it were) and this was just the tip of the iceberg, or that the presence of the camera completed the last requirement, and acted as a catalyst in this terrible reaction. The strong message that was being sent, was only meaningful if it were carried by the media. It was not more about the warning (others) than about causing one person pain. The question that haunts me is ‘would those people have been necklaced, if there was no media coverage?”

(Source: Wikipedia: Necklacing)

In March 1993 Carter made a trip to Sudan. The sound of soft, high-pitched whimpering near the village of Ayod attracted Carter to an emaciated Sudanese toddler. The girl had stopped to rest while struggling to a feeding center, whereupon a vulture had landed nearby. He said that he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away. (Source: Wikipedia: Kevin Carter)

image courtesy of

It is unknown what happened to this young girl after this photo was taken. What is widely known is that Kevin Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for this photograph, presented to him on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University.

On July 27, 1994 Carter drove to the Braamfontein Spruit river, near the Field and Study Centre, an area where he used to play as a child, and took his own life by taping one end of a hose to his pickup truck’s exhaust pipe and running the other end to the passenger-side window. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 33. Portions of Carter’s suicide note read:

“I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners…I have gone to join Ken [recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek] if I am that lucky.”

This is certainly not a new story, but it’s something that’s been on my heart lately. Photographers, journalists and writers give voice to suffering and chaos. Hopefully in an attempt to draw the world’s attention to it, thereby calling others to action. But in that moment and the moments immediately following, what are they doing about it? Would Kevin Carter be alive today if he had set down that camera and come to the aid of that little girl? Would the darkness have consumed him had he chosen to be a light instead of a neutral observer? I just don’t know.

I’ve said before that one of the occupational hazards of being a writer is that you’re always writing. Every situation becomes a potential story. But I never want to come to a place where what I put on paper becomes more important than inserting myself into the bigger story of life. Especially if by abandoning my mental pen and notebook I might have a hand in changing a tragedy into a happily ever after, or at least an after.

“Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there’s all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.” – Arthur Gordon

“By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction” – William Osler

Is Religion a Crutch? (by Helen Migon)

My friend Helen sent me this post last week, and I am honored that she would ask me to post it here on my blog. Thank you, Helen.

From the movie Unstrung Heroes

Sid Lidz: Religion is a crutch. Only cripples need crutches.

Arthur Lidz: A crutch isn’t bad if you need it, Sidney.

Danny Lidz: All of us are cripples in some way.

Sid Lidz: Well, I’m not.

I cried like a child at that point in the movie. I cried because I knew that I do need to lean on God. I cried for all of humanity, who without God, is worse off than lame. I cried for the fictional character Sid Lidz, who is as needy as any other character in that movie, but fails to recognize it. He thinks he is the strong one, but he is zapping the strength from those around them who need God, and know it. He thinks he is the strong one, but he is actually the most pathetic character in the whole movie. I felt sadder for him than anyone else.

This weekend, I went to a wake for the mom of a friend of a friend. I have never met this woman before, but know of her through my friend Irma. My friend Irma has been concerned about her friend, Samantha , for quite a while. She and Samantha work together. She likes Samantha, because Samantha is a nice person, but is concerned about her, because Samantha is does not believe in God. Her excuse seems to be hypocritical Christians. I don’t know the details, so I am unprepared to say whether she is overreacting, or if if her experience was so horrible I’d like to feed a few lions myself. My heart just breaks though, that her reason for not leaning on God is that some people suck.

Anyways, I met her for the first time at her mom’s wake. I wasn’t there to witness to her or anything like that. I just thought that since I had gone through the loss of my own mom a short time ago, and still have issues of my own I am praying through (and have people praying for me as well, thank you very much if you are among them), I’d be of some use. I don’t know how to explain… I find sometimes that looking into someone’s eyes, and seeing that they too feel similar pain helps me feel at one with them. I feel more understood, and therefore comforted. I went there to offer that to her.

Now, I need to tell you before I go on, that I really do love my Momma. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. Every day some small thing reminds me of her, and I get all choked up because I miss her, and end up calling someone or emailing them to try to feel better, and not spend another day wallowing in grief. So it surprised me deeply to look into Samantha’s eyes, and see a pain deeper than my own. Surely she couldn’t have loved her Momma more than I did mine. How is that even possible?

We talked a bit. I eavesdropped as I listened to people comfort her. Not one person spoke of hope. At my Momma’s wake, nearly everyone reminded me of mom’s love for God and others, and assured me that my family is one by one reuniting in Heaven, and praising Jesus that we will be together once more, but this time without heartache for all eternity.

People shared fond memories of her mom with Samantha, but I know myself that right now, fond memories bring an ache rather than soothe. There will never be another thing to remember on this Earth. I failed at neatly putting away every instant with her away in my mind as a treasure. One day I will find that isn’t so. I know this from the experience of losing my Dad. Wait. I don’t really mean “losing” him, but being separated from him by the chasm of death.

Samantha, on the other hand, has “lost” her mom. Or at least Samantha believes she has. I do not know if Samantha’s mom was a Christian or not. I do know that Samantha believes that all she has of her mom is in the past. Samantha had mentioned to me that she regrets being with her mom at the last. It was so hard. It gives her painful memories, when memories are all she has of her mom now.

I on the other hand, have regretted not being there when my Momma died suddenly and unexpectedly. I am slowly letting that go. Through prayer, I am slowly coming to believe that God took her when she was ready to go. Would she have been so ready and willing with my tear stained face at her side?

In my own pain and regrets, I have God to lean on. I am thankful for that. I am thankful that Momma and I share a Savior, Jesus Christ. I am not ashamed to lean on His cross. I am not ashamed to be a “cripple”. I have always needed God, and I always will. And yes, I believe that is true for everyone. My heart breaks for those who drag themselves along instead of recognizing their need and leaning on Him. It is only by leaning on Him that we can stand at all.

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.


To read more from Helen Migon, visit her at Random Musings and follow her on the twitter at @HelenatRandom.