An Apology

I can’t place it, but I know that today is something other than the day before my birthday–and then I remember: Pearl Harbor—and then Michael Moore posts from Hiroshima on Twitter, saying:

In Hiroshima 2 day. Coincidentally, it’s Pearl Harbor Day. I hear from back home the pundits beating the drums again 4 war. Nothing changes.

His discouraging words bring me back to President Obama’s speech at West Point last month.  I listened to it  from my Facebook account at the doctor’s office where I can snag a high speed connection.

Is that live?” another patient asks, overhearing the President’s voice. I explain that it’s not, and that I’m just getting to it now because I don’t have television reception at home.

The doctor asks the receptionist to leave her office door open so that she can listen too. “I caught part of it in the airport,” she calls out from her desk,  “But I’d like to hear more.”

I love the sound of his voice,” says another patient.

In response, I complain that as much as I want to pay attention, speeches always put me to sleep.

As an educator, it occurs to me that politicians might be able to make these moments more participatory.  They could split everyone into pairs and have them ask each other:

What would you do?

Then Obama could call on a few people to share their wisdom and take a survey of hands to see who agrees.

After the speech, my politically astute teen gets word of the increase of troops to Afghanistan and confides to his father on the drive home from school that he’s worried about the draft. He’s only 14.   But I think about it too.  We’ve never even let him play with guns.

I no longer hold full responsibility for the world my beloved child inherits–as  his choices have begun to define it too.  An older classmate is in Afghanistan right now.  My son asks about the “action” that this guy might get to see.  He figures times of peace must be pretty boring for soldiers.

I think back to a conversation on war I had with some women friends.  One, a documentarist, suggests that we simply bring all the soldiers home and see what happens.

But that won’t address the hunger some have for fighting,” I offer, adding that I think we need to find other channels for that warrior energy.

I wonder how it might look if our armed forces directed the youth’s need for action into combating other threats– like disaster, environmental degradation, poverty.

But what of the thirst for killing, I wonder?

This week a 17 year old boy was tried as an adult for the murder of his ten-year old brother.  The parents didn’t attend the trial, but they supported the conviction at which they lost a second son.  The boys had been wrestling and the teen strangled his younger brother in a hold–to satiate a desire to kill.

Is Michael Moore right?  Has nothing changed?  Will nothing change?

I don’t know, but I do know that we cannot collapse into defeat.  As Gandhi says, We must  be the change we want to see in the world—and that begins in our own hearts.

My memory turns toward a tiny park on a hill in the Berkshires of Massachusetts—where my own troubled mind was filled with the hope of peace.

I sit on a bench beside a young Japanese woman named Seiko.  She and I are among 25 students training to be YogaDance instructors at Kripalu’s Healing Center in Lenox.

We have been assigned as partners with the task of supporting each other with our journey at Kripalu by taking a walk together.

On the path through the woods, Seiko tells me that she has been unable to find the song, “Over the Rainbow.” She asks if I can sing it for her so that she can practice the dance prayer she has created for our class.

I laugh at the thought of me singing while she dances, but I agree, especially because Seiko is a ballerina and I’d enjoy the treat of watching her move to that beautiful tune.

We come to a tiny park with a single bench under the shade of a thickly-trunked tree.  Before we begin, I tell Seiko that there is something I must say.  There among the mountains, I turn toward my new Japanese friend, and timidly offer,

I want to apologize for dropping the bomb on your country.

Seiko is taken aback by my unexpected words.  She asks me to repeat myself.  And I do– with tears stinging my eyes.  Although I am twenty years her elder, Seiko responds to me with a the tenderness of a mother,

You don’t have to apologize for that, Kelly.  You and I weren’t even born.

I know,” I say, “but it’s important for me to say these words to someone from your country.”

Tears fill Seiko’s eyes as she replies in a whisper,

No one has ever apologized to me for that before, thank you…

I begin to sing, and Seiko begins to dance under the broad branches of a firmly rooted tree,

Somewhere over the rainbow…

Kelly Salasin


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