From the Dan Rather newsletter, Steady. “…in the wake of the horrific terrorist attack in Israel and the resulting carnage of war, we …use the space here to acknowledge suffering, yearn for peace, and pay tribute to our common humanity.”

This time of the week at Steady, we normally share an installment of our series A Reason To Smile. We created this feature because we feel strongly that even amidst the pain and fear of life, we must find ways to celebrate the wonder of human expression and the beauty of our marvelous world. We must, even in darkness, try to find light and reasons to smile. 

We decided, however, that in the wake of the horrific terrorist attack in Israel and the resulting carnage of war, we would postpone this feature for a few days and use the space here to acknowledge suffering, yearn for peace, and pay tribute to our common humanity.

What is happening in Israel and Gaza is the most dangerous set of events in the volatile Middle East in years. The forces that led to this latest bloodshed are longstanding and complicated. They stretch far beyond the little patch of land where the bombs and the bullets are currently flying. The next days and weeks will likely bring much more death, and it is not clear what will emerge. One of the tragic truths about this region is that few of its many serious problems have any good solutions. 

War is always hell, and those who are trapped by it — the civilians who just want to live in peace with their families — usually pay the heaviest toll. Sadly, armed conflicts are raging in some form in many parts of our world. Obviously we hear a lot about Ukraine, where casualties are estimated in the hundreds of thousands. But there is also a brutal civil war in Sudan. There is fighting in Somalia, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Libya, and many other nations. There are violent gangs running Haiti, destabilizing El Salvador, and killing scores of people in Mexico and elsewhere. We have an epidemic of gun violence in the United States, as well.

In all of these cases, suffering and terror are widespread, and innocence affords no protection. Violence has always been part of the human experience. As a species, we have made strides toward becoming more peaceful, creating governments and systems of laws and treaties that allow for disputes to be resolved without resorting to force. But the primal instincts still remain and can burst forth with horrific consequences. Even in our country, we have a former president who revels in the threat of physical harm and sees it as a tool for his own power. 

From afar, we can feel powerless when violence surges. But the ultimate powerlessness lies with those who are trapped. Lives are destroyed. Fear permeates. Sadness takes root. Children lose childhoods. Desperation and anger churn. 

There is an added level to this tragedy, in that we are fighting between ourselves as a species at the very moment we need to come together to confront a common threat to us all: the climate crisis. Sadly, global warming could also make war more likely, as parts of Earth grow uninhabitable, and resources like water become scarce. The time, money, and ingenuity that go into making and deploying tools for killing each other need to be focused instead on how we can save ourselves and the rest of life on our precious planet. 

Let us hope that we stand up to those who would wreak havoc and death. Let us hope that we continue to try to find ways to lessen suffering so that violence doesn’t feel like the only option for those who are desperate. Let us never give up on yearning for peace. The vast majority of humans want safety and security. And in that truth, we can find hope that ultimately this majority will prevail. But in the meantime, the bloodshed will continue. 

The pull of our humanity is what gives us a reason to smile when we see what is good and beautiful in our world. But it also is what provokes such sadness when we know others are in pain. We need to hold onto both the good and the bad so we can hold onto each other. We need to remember all that we have in common as we try to cope with the difficult realities of life.