Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"If I die, I'll send you a text message."

So said a 12 year old Palestinian boy, a student of our daughter's, when she cautioned him to be careful.  It's a week since the actor/director, Juliano Mer Khamis, was killed in Jenin, Palestine, and this boy had heard that a location near his home was rumored to be the target of the latest death threats.

What is the point of education in theater, music, or the arts--or, science for that matter, when such realities are a part of daily life?  Yet, even people as brutally and degradingly oppressed as the Palestinians are today, hunger for knowledge, for aesthetics.  Even as children.  Or perhaps even especially as children.

The Palestine that we read of in the papers is rather statistical and abstract to us in our comfortable academic lives: so many killed or taken maimed to hospital--so many of this religion, or that sect--that it is a matter of numbers and daily column-inches.  A brief 'tsk, tsk, too bad', and we are back to our important grant application, experiment, or publication.  Or even a lecture.

We know we may get ill or accidents may befall us.  But those events are so unlikely in our lives or the lives of people we know that when it happens to us, along with sadness, we may feel resentment that 'real life' has been interrupted.  We take our daily life seriously, as if it matters--as if we matter--and this inconvenience, or tragedy, is only a brief time out, a commercial break.  Then, let's get back to what's really important, our major research--making sure we've GWAS'ed exhaustively enough to find all of the thousand variants that trivially affect your risk of death--in bed, at age 70.

But this child in a different world just casually talking about the dangers he faces every day, with so many of his relatives dead or in jail, can reassure his teacher of his seriousness about doing his work and showing up for his lessons by making a quip about fate, a tacit recognition that the odds aren't nearly as in his favor as they are in ours.  "If I die, I'll send you a text message."  He smiled.


John R. Vokey said...

Poignant, but even sadder: The child thinks that even when dead he could send a text message. So sad.

Anne Buchanan said...

A comment sent by our daughter:

Thank you for the words about this. About my student: thankfully, he was only joking with the comment about the text message, trying to make me laugh. Like most of my students here (and in the USA), he is an expert at computers, cell phones, etc, and has a very sharp sense of irony...

Ken Weiss said...

This doesn't diminish the poignancy of his comment in any way! Just as it wouldn't if said by an inner-city kid in our own country.

Kids shouldn't have to dodge bullets on the way to school. Nobody should.

Anne Buchanan said...

To me, that death is a subject to joke about for a 12 year old, a boy who has known senseless killing all his life, makes it all that much more poignant.