This I Believe

Liz - Berkeley, California
Entered on October 2, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: peace, war

I believe I can begin to the end the war. The war is long over isn’t it? The final battles in the European Theatre in ’45, the surrender, the celebration in Times Square. But is it really, is the war really over?

My husband and I watch a documentary about the Holocaust. A woman recounts word of Nazi soldiers tearing the bodies of babies in half. I can’t finish watching it.

How I would wish to not have need for the pure skills of survival, not to live in the shrill anxiety of the aftermath, where food is not food, it’s provisions, packages are wrapped with urgent care, god knows what customs will do to them, and they’re always at risk of being lost in transit.

Life at times has the air of a long-distance phone call that may be cut off at any minute.

The war is over. Or will the war never be over?

Once you’ve known suffering, you’ve got a nose for it, and the planet still bears its scent – the unbearable psychosis of evil. And how could that cruelty and madness reach its horrible choking hands into my own family too? My own mother turned a Nazi-like rage on me, a private war of unthinkable ferocity, which left my own spirit at the brink of extinction.

The memories are searing and yet they still defy belief: a deranged evil, not on the streets or the battlegrounds, or the camps in the “East,” but in the very interior of our family. Other family members turned to social action, healing, but my mother spun only deeper into that black hole. And it left us completely estranged, that umbilical mother-daughter bond shattered.

Tekun Ohlam my aunt tells me, with kindness and wisdom. She too, estranged from my mother. “To heal the earth” the Jewish saying means.

But no matter how much I think I’ve put it all to rest, rage and fear come rustling out of the past, and I find no solace in a world still at war with itself, rife with ideologues and acts of sheer unmitigated brutality.

I sigh to myself. . . . it’s back: that old feeling of desperation run ragged. How do I survive something which feels unsurvivable?

And then it’s always the simplest, the hardest question: how can I live?

Let me begin to end the war here, in my own body and soul, to heal the horrors that haunt my sleep, the scars passed through generations. Like forged metal, my desperation must become determination to live a better life, add some love, some brightness to the world.

Let my bones and blood, spirit and sight, be an alchemy of constant means – forge suffering into a greater, stronger love.

May I find peace one a day at a time, a better confidence in love – the only real counter to evil, love’s brightness in so many forms: kindness, courage, wisdom, tenderness, the things that heal wounds, that create new life.