Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!

Defining Tragedies

During my morning run, I obsessed on a video I’d seen about victims of the Texas flooding. Later, I viewed it again, so I wouldn’t have to paraphrase: “The blessing in all this is that she is with her children and she is with her babies and she will be with her babies always in heaven,” a woman said. The “she” to whom the woman referred is her sister, Laura McComb, missing along with her children. Missing and presumed dead. A family forever changed.

I continued to fixate on tragedies, the ones that sear our small personal worlds and then on those that violate the large, our biosphere.

Some people toss the words “tragic” and “tragedy” frivolously, revealing a lack of empathy perhaps or a misunderstanding of the definition, whether it’s the adjective or noun.

This week, my daughter-in-law sent a link to a condo for sale in Brooklyn—its price: $8.5 million. The photos illustrate a stunning space and the text: an “oasis” with a garden. The real estate agent said, “Of course, the garden could also be sold separately, but that would be tragic.” Tragic? What a thoughtless statement. Imagine the reaction of a Syrian refugee or the parents of a child born with deformities from the US’s use of depleted uranium to “tragic” as used in describing the parceling off of a garden.

I think about my small life, the deaths of family members and friends. My nephew Chase was killed in Iraq in August of 2005. My husband Charles died seven years ago. My father died seven months later, and then my mother in 2011. Chase’s death was a tragedy. He was young. I hope he died instantly when that vehicle-borne IED tore off his face. My husband’s death affected my little world, diminishing it, diminishing my joy of life, but this was not a tragedy. He lived and loved fully. And he said just two weeks before he died, “I’ve had a wonderful life.”

Although we might not express this in ordinary conversation with neighbors, those large tragedies that devastate humankind and our ecology should be as unacceptable as the tragedies that disappear the young, our loved ones, from our arms. Damage to our ecosystem may be considered a distant problem, something beyond our control, or just plain too despairing to talk about. Same for war with the invasion of countries, environmental degradation, butchery, droning, maiming human beings we don’t know, can’t see, people considered different.

As we move through whatever our brief period of time is, we can live in the present but think about the future and what we’re leaving our children, the world’s children. And do whatever we can, each of us, for peace, equality of opportunity, justice for all. This requires striking from the lexicon euphemisms like collateral damage, that stone-cold term that sanitizes murder, removing borders, barriers to understanding and compassion, chanting, “Earth! Earth! Earth!” instead of “USA! USA! USA!”, and acting to preserve and nurture our planet with tender stewardship.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

May 23, 2018
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance