America's Broken Heart
Finding Miracles in the Valley of Death

by Bill Douglas
Founder: World Healing Day

This horror we have witnessed as a nation reminds me of a personal horror I had years ago. Many years ago I lost my youngest son after watching him lie comatose in a hospital bed for a month. The levels of consciousness I went through, are according to psychologists, the same levels we are now going through as a nation. The first is a shocked numbness, the next rage and anger, and this followed by a great sorrow that seems so unbearable that sometimes people stay locked in the rage/anger stage in order to avoid the sorrow that seems so desolate and overwhelming.

America will never be the same. What that means depends on where we go from here. We can allow this tragedy and travesty to harden us and throw us into the never-ending spiral of violence that Israelis and Palestinians have found themselves for so many years. We can declare war on a harboring nation and unleash the full might of the U.S. military power to pound that nation into oblivion, including some civilians that would be considered "collateral damage" just as the terrorists considered these victims "collateral damage." Or we can have our hearts opened by this enormous loss we have collectively experienced, and forever be changed in the way we feel when we see a bomb explode in the Palestinian homelands, Belgrade, Baghdad, or any other city in the world.

Naturally I and other Americans felt black anger seeing the innocent suffering unfolding in New York and Washington, and not really sure of who, what, or how to direct that swelling rage. I had felt that before, the night of my son's death I was so hardened and angry, at the doctors, at myself, at God, at life, that I almost walked away from the most precious experience of my life. My son's heart had failed several times, and my wife and I agreed that if it happened again, we wouldn't revive him by torturing his tiny frame with anymore shocks or needles. So, on the night they called me into the hospital at 3 am with my two older toddlers in tow, I knew how the night would end. But, I didn't really because I allowed "something miraculous" to happen that night. At first when the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold Isaac I said, no, so thick with anger that I had told myself that Isaac's soul had passed on and that this body was no longer my precious boy. But, a voice came to my mind that said, "no, you must now stand in the center of life, and feel it all, or forever run from the real meaning of everything."

So, I sat down among all the tubes and wires attached to my tiny son, as the nurse placed his fragile being in my arms. The switch was turned off and the earth stood still. Suddenly a flood of such unimaginable sorrow and love as I have never ever felt before or since poured through my hardened heart, I thought it would break me in two. And it did, I left that hospital a shattered man that night, and it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. My broken heart was so wide open and fragile that I began to realize a compassion for others that I had never ever felt before. All the suffering of everyone found a channel through my open heart. I had never experienced such love for humanity and for the fragility and humility of my human condition -- our human condition.

America, this tragedy can do this for us all, if we can pass through the stage of hate/rage. It can sensitize us, causing us to rethink some facts that may have seemed unimportant to us before. Sometimes our foreign policy can seem so "over there" that it doesn't seem that important, often those issues are relegated to back pages of the paper, while domestic issues like "lotto winners" and "school bonds" take the front pages. We can lose touch with the far-reaching ramifications of US policy elsewhere. Such as the fact that the United States is the largest exporter of weapons in the entire world, and one of the only countries standing against the abolition of land mines, as well as now unilaterally violating the anti-ballistic missile treaty. This means that the odds are that when a bomb lands on people in the world, or a landmine blows off a child's arm - it was made in the United States. Today we will be conducting massive investigations to find out where the weapons were made that enabled the hi-jackings to occur, and we will hold that source responsible. Other humans are no different.

Environmentally and economically, we Americans are only 5% of the world's population, yet we consume 50% of the earth's resources, with govt. programs subsidizing our fuel thereby enabling American's to be quite thoughtless and wasteful as we are the only industrial nation on earth increasing our carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) output. When the global temperature continues to rise, and the world experiences higher costs for fuel, fuel shortages, and less resources because American's are wastefully and thoughtlessly creating larger and larger fuel guzzling vehicles, and our government stands as the only government that refuses to sign the Kyoto Treaty to reduce fossil fuel consumption, the world sees the United States in a different light than we may have seen ourselves, because the "lotto winners" are on the front pages, these thoughts are buried.
When the earth's resources are increasingly plundered to satisfy the endless desire for consumer products in the U.S., those who are left with little or nothing because of a global multi-national corporate economy suffer. Remember that this global corporate economy is designed by the lawyers of those who the majority of poverty stricken world citizens will never meet or know, yet suffer everyday from their decisions and legal briefs.

The rage we feel today at our suffering and the suffering of our countrymen/ women/children, and the fact that we do not know quite where to place the anger but only knowing that we rage against the injustice of it all -- is felt by people worldwide when a bomb or landmine takes the lives of their neighbors, their children, or when a world economy run by people beyond their control or awareness leaves their families scrapping and starving through no fault of their own.

You see, our own tragedy can now enable us to "feel" what that desolate rage at a force we don't even really know or understand feels like. It can awaken us to be more cognizant of what our nation's policies are so that we do not allow our nation's policies to add to this suffering - as human children we do not want to add to suffering anymore, the world has enough of it without contributing to it in anyway. To make our government's policies healing, we must become vigilant to them, and be educated of their effects. As citizens of the world's most powerful nation, we have responsibilities. Consider this, if we attack a nation where the terrorists were supported, the innocent human "collateral damage" of our attack will be people who very likely only committed the crime of "not caring," being "ignorant of," or feeling "powerless to change" what their government was doing.

The world is at a crossroads. We can use this horrible event as a catalyst to see ourselves in the fragility and suffering of others worldwide, to steer our world down the road of compassion, creating a world we can ALL love living in. Or, we can use it as a reason to build yet more weapons, to militarize our nation and world more, and to callous our hearts and deafen our ears to the suffering of others worldwide. I found my life when I allowed tragedy to break my heart, rather than thicken it. I honor my son by opening my heart endlessly. I pray America will find the miracle in this tragedy, and thereby honor those who have passed.

Bill Douglas, Kansas City
Founder of World Healing Day

Reprinted with permission


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