Robert Galbraith: Eight weeks in November

We are honoured that Robert Galbraith has permitted us to reproduce his eloquent and moving conclusions on his tour in Afghanistan.

Let Us Not Forget What It Means To Be Canadian

Special to The suburban by Robert J. Galbraith

Sometimes I feel that there will always be war. As long as there are two people remaining on this earth, there will be war. To believe that someday there will not be war on this planet, is wishful thinking. We are a civilization of war, past and present. War has built who we are and shapes our destiny. We celebrate it, it is who we are, it has molded us, and it always will.
Even though we call ourselves civilized and progressive, we are in reality regressive. We used to fight with clubs and spears and had some sort of chivalry, now we kill with smart bombs, unmanned aircraft and we drop bombs from the sky to intentionally kill and maim children.
War brings out the best and worst in us. I have seen the greatest acts of kindness and courage in the face of death. I have also seen the cowardice and the shamelessness that turned my stomach and almost left me without hope. But we must have hope.
The child victims of land mines and cluster bombs whom I visited in hospitals in Kabul and Baghdad have hope. They smiled at me while doctors bandaged their pathetic stumps that were once running and grasping limbs. They are who give me hope.
It is always the children and the elderly who suffer the most during war. After two decades of covering this scourge of grown men, to see a grown adult die almost becomes acceptable. But to see a child writhing in pain from stepping on a land mine or from playing with a cluster bomb which he or she thought was a toy, then it explodes in their face, makes me wish I was dead.
I have seen young children, very young children raped during war, and I have seen children form gangs, like packs of rabid wild dogs, just to survive the assaults of war and the perverts who use war to prey upon them.
After returning from the darkness of another conflict, it is difficult for me to walk the streets of this city I love. It is difficult because the ghosts of the dead haunt me. They are just over my shoulder, and between my ears, like clouds that never go away. I am so alone because of this, and I often ask for God’s help to keep me walking straight. But this is the price I pay to help you to understand war, and why we should help the innocent victims I have mentioned above. I am not scared to die, but I am very scared when I see children suffer. Because the death of innocence is the worst death to witness.
When my fellow Canadians ask me why we are over there in that struggling country, and why we are risking the lives of our soldiers for people we don’t even know, or a fight that they say isn’t ours, it absolutely breaks my heart. I love Afghanistan and its people. The same way I love Iraq and the souls who live there in destitution.
When, when did we lose our compassion for those who suffer injustice? When did we become solitary islands on this earth we all call home and our mother? How can we turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, wherever they may live, or whatever the colour of their skin?
Have we forgotten what a Canadian is, what it means to be a part of the greatest and most gracious nation on earth? What has happened to us? Why have we become so selfish, so unconcerned, so trivial, so complacent [in the face of] other peoples’ suffering? What is happening to us?
Many of us – our fathers, our grandfathers and grandmothers – came to this country to escape hatred, prejudice and injustice. We came here from countless nations to pray to the God of our choice and to vote for those we believe should lead us. Have we forgotten why we and they came here, why we live here, why we indeed prosper? Have we forgotten what it is to be human, to be a Canadian, to care?
I would not take one day back in my life as a journalist, not one day from the suffering and darkness I have walked through and breathed-in. I have never felt more alive than I do now, just days after my return from one of the most violent regions of the world. I have left the island of myself to seek and record the misery of others. I will always walk through that door into the dark, because if I do not, someday, you or your children may have to. Let us not forget what being a Canadian means.

One Comment on "Robert Galbraith: Eight weeks in November"

  1. Herb December 1, 2007 at 6:41 pm ·

    Touching, beautiful, sensitive and incredibly sad.

    Many thanks

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