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On Waging War

September 29, 2016

'Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are. And the more you wage war.’

- Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close



There was no warning sign when we stepped out; the clouds looked innocent. Our neighborhood at ten pm was dozing off to sleep. You took my hand and led the way on our aimless evening stroll.


Suddenly, rain. An orchestra of lightning and thunder. A hurricane. The two of us so little standing there on the sidewalk, caught in something so great. A war of water and air and we, helplessly human and soaked, kissing like the world was ending around us in the perfect eye of the storm.


Far away from us, a different kind of war; the air was dry and from the sky it was raining bombs. Syrian army men were fighting Syrian rebels, Iranians by their side. Americans were fighting the regime with the rebels, the rebels were fighting amongst themselves. Extremists were fighting moderates, Russians were fighting them both. Kurds, Turks, ISIS, and Hezbollah were waging war as well.


The humans in this war dropped bombs on aid convoys, elementary schools, hospitals. Chlorine and ammonia on areas cut off for months from water and food. ‘The more you kiss with lips, the more human you are. And the more you wage war.’ This one, so far, has displaced 1.5 million humans, and cost more than 470,000 lives.


But not too far from there, across the border, others are waging another war. In Lebanon, some humans have been fighting to put refugee children back in school.


In 2011, almost all Syrian children led average schoolchildren lives; when September came, they sharpened new pencils and wrote their names down in new notebooks. Other humans’ wars cost them their classrooms, the kitchen tables at which they did homework. Now 500,000 of them live makeshift lives in Lebanon, less than half of those are in school.


These children see humans kiss and wage war around them every day. They do not need an education to learn about injustice, death, and poverty. Life will teach them about political, economic, and personal interests that violate human rights. But when they are old enough to kiss and wage their own wars, how will they know the right ones to fight?


The Clooney Foundation for Justice wants to enroll ten thousand children in schools in Lebanon by 2017, fifty thousand more by 2018. Because every child deserves an education, regardless of where they were born.


This war to save a generation’s future will cost seven million dollars to start. The air strikes in Syria and Iraq cost the United States alone up to ten million dollars a day.


The more human we are, the more we wage war. But not all wars are the same. If we must fight, let it be against hunger, against poverty, disease. Let us fight against the ignorant thoughts that make us fear the different. Let us fight for children we do not know to have the same chances as our own; for these human rights we claim to hold so dear to be truly universal.


We are not all millionaires, governments, foundations, international organizations, or movie stars. Some of us are simply, helplessly human, leading little lives. But in those we can wage other wars that are no less great: the fight against indifference, ignorance, apathy, hate.


Overcome the angry by non-anger;

overcome the wicked by goodness;

overcome the miser by generosity;

overcome the liar by truth.

- The Dhammapada, Chapter 17. 223


We can wage war by treating people kindly, treading lightly on their lives. Being grateful for rain instead of bombs, kissing in the storm.


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