I wrote a little story a few months ago in a fiction writing workshop about a local school held hostage by militants who murdered children to send a political message. Back then, the fellow writers in the workshop rightly pointed out that a scenario like that had no basis in reality. The terrorists didn’t operate that way in Pakistan, they said. There actually was a method to the madness.
Yesterday they were tragically proven wrong and reality proved stranger than fiction and more grisly events than I could ever have imagined took place in a school in my hometown. So much so that even the Afghan Taliban condemned the attack carried out by the TTP. It was too much for even those guys to stomach.
132 children lost their lives, dressed in school clothes, shoes polished, giving exams and laughing and joking and doing what school kids do. Before being shot in the face that is, before watching their teachers burned alive, their friends murdered, their worlds torn apart, a place where their futures were to be forged transformed into a hellground by a few misguided souls.
And now they’re gone. It’s the worst form of horror imaginable.
My primary focus, as usual, is what is the best way to move forward for me, an average Joe. It’s almost impossible to wrap one’s head around what went down. Hundreds of children, murdered in their school in my home town. Just thinking about it fills me with a combination of heavy-hearted sadness fused with murderous fucking rage. Tears and screams. ‘Innocents’ have been indiscriminately dying here for some time, and that’s tragically become ‘normal’, but knowing that children were targeted thus is hard to stomach.
The whys of the situation can be argued till all is blue, but it all boils down to this – if you keep scorpions in your backyard, they’re eventually going to bite the kids.
Who is responsible, who is to blame, the obligatory finger-pointing and so forth, ultimately reduces to naught. The situation is – as most situations here are – incredibly complex. And none of the posturing or stupid games or this group vs. that group that we’ve been force-fed by the news matter right now. No slogans or chants are going to help us. There are no winners and losers. Our children were killed by the hundreds. We all lost.
It’s only natural to get bogged down by it all. Sympathy, empathy, combined with some projection and ‘putting oneself in their shoes’ will all lead to a heightened sense of gloom. What is one to do against such reckless hate? What is one to do against such misguided Islamism? What is one to do when faced with the devil himself, one that ironically asks you to ‘recite the kalma’ before he murders you or your friends?
For me, the answer to that boils down to what it has always boiled down to: I have to pay my respects, make the necessary monetary and blood donations, help those on the ground in whatever way I can, and then get back to work. This good vs. evil battle has waged on forever and will do so forever; it’s simply how humans have been built. Books and religions and philosophers have described it in all sorts of languages, but the game is the same. All we can do is pick a side and sally forth. There are days like yesterday when evil seems to have won, when ‘this country is getting worse’ or ‘humanity has failed us’ or ‘there is no longer any hope’. But that’s just the brain playing tricks. There is always hope. Every day the battle starts anew, and I intend to keep showing up no matter what.
And seeing the reaction worldwide has been heartening; we all lost something basic today, but we’re gathering and we will rebuild. Even the news channels have dialed down their blatant propaganda as much as their sycophancy allows. And our ‘leaders’, who’ve been bombarding the airwaves with their squabbles lately, have quieted down and bowed their heads with the rest of us. Something basic has been touched. 132 times.
None of this is of any comfort to the families of the deceased. Or those of the survivors. God, I can’t even imagine what you are going through as you make preparations to bury your child. I would be losing it if I was in your position. All I can give you is my prayers, my love, my blood, my tears, and what little rupees I have.
And as far as the TTP goes, I hope and pray that retribution is swift and merciless. I hope that those unfortunate souls are put to sleep ASAP.
I didn’t plan on getting back to this blog in this way but it’s either write or punch walls right now. I love this country more than I ever realized possible, and I will do everything in my limited capacity to serve her however I can, no matter what.
I’ll never forget the 16th of December, 2014. Rest easy, kids. You don’t have to hear those screams anymore.