The news from Afghanistan was devastating. In the middle of the night an American soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, allegedly left his base, went into the nearby village of Alkozai and killed 16 people, mostly women and children.
The reaction was swift and strong. In Afghanistan the villagers were paralyzed by the tragedy. The Afghan government called for immediate justice. The Taliban threatened reprisal.
In our own country: Army officials pored over Bales’ records trying to find some reason for such an awful, seemingly random attack. Psychologists are speculating about what might have “snapped.” His personal life and his military career are under intense scrutiny. And trying to understand what happened will be critical in preventing the same thing from happening again, if anyone can truly understand why it happened. On another level Government officials worried with good cause about how this would affect our efforts in Afghanistan. There might be repercussions. Trust crumbled. Efforts at peaceful engagement seem threatened.
The search for explanation and implication will continue. The demands for justice and retribution will continue.
But I am leaving all that for the others. I know that understanding Staff Sgt. Bales matters. I know that weighing the effect on our relationship with the country and our continued presence in Afghanistan matters. I know that justice must be served. But I am leaving all that for the others.
I am staying with the horror of the moment. I am staying with the villagers who lost mother, father, sister, brother, child. I am weeping with the ones whose lives were suddenly ripped apart by a madman with a gun. I am not thinking about the shooter’s past or our nation’s future. This is one time when I do not want to see the big picture. I want to see the little picture. I want all of us to see the little picture, the little picture which is so big in the lives of those who died, and their families and their village.
I want to weep, I want all of us to weep, because I am sure God is weeping too.