FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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: missybeat@gmail.com

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: missybeat@gmail.com

January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail