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Personalizing the victims of war and happy birthday, Maria Amin

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Message Mary MacElveen
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In covering the stories of two children caught up in the violence of war namely Youssif and Maria Amin, both CNN and the BBC should be heralded for doing so.  Both news agencies are putting a human face on it.  In both cases, these victims are not nameless and are not seen as objects, but two little children.


I feel that they are doing so in order to help humanity to see the human cost in hopes of changing people’s minds concerning the ravages of war.  Both children just tug at our hearts where we are quick to anger and respond in kind.  In both cases, our response was to help these victims.  In Youssif’s case thousands upon thousands opened up their wallets to help bring him to this country for treatment and in Maria’s case it was to support the actions of the Israeli rehab center that has been treating her.


There is a certain genius in naming these victims since profilers who deal with serial killers often use the name of the victim to make those responsible for kidnapping see them as human beings and not objects.


Case in point is the movie “Silence of the Lambs” the name, Catherine is repeated over and over as her mother; a U.S. senator faces a bank of cameras and addresses the kidnapper/serial killer, Buffalo Bill.  She does so in order for this killer to spare her child’s life.  In that fictionalized story, the FBI agent in training who is selected to aid in his capture, Clarice Starling comments that she is “smart” for doing so.


Clarice remarks to those surrounding her, “Somebody's coaching her... They're trying to make him see Catherine as a person - not just an object.”


So as we hear and read the names Youssif and Maria, we no longer see these children as collateral damage, but real children deserving the life of innocence.


On August 29th, CNN ran a story of an Episcopal priest, Father Bill Terry who created a ‘murder board’ so that the community and those elected to protect it would not see these victims as merely statistics but human beings.  CNN reported that, “He started listing murder victims earlier this year to humanize the headlines.” That murder board hangs outside his church so that people passing by it can see the names of these victims upfront and personal.


Father Bill told CNN, "Numbers are very easy to deal with emotionally. When it becomes a human being, then we start to personalize and it's harder to deal with. I want people to squirm. I want people to feel uncomfortable about the murders going on in the city," I invite all to read the full story by going to the hyperlink above.


In the case of Youssif and Maria, I too want those responsible to squirm and hopefully someday this senseless violence will end.  Knowing mankind’s propensity for violence, I realize that is a Polly Anna way of approaching it, but I will do so none the less.

 In the case of war, we tend to personalize the human tragedy by creating walls with our soldier's names on them in hopes that it will not happen again.  Oh, but it does.  If the war in Iraq does not end soon, one wonders how many names will be up in some future wall and more importantly; will we have learned anything from seeing it?


To help personalize Maria further in front of us all, she just celebrated her sixth birthday as reported by the Independent.  This little Palestinian girl did so as aunts doted on her and placed a tiara on her head.  Maria even has her own mind and rejected a plain lipstick in favor of a glittery one.  Like all insistent little girls around this world she insisted on being sprayed with her favorite perfume.  Good for you, Maria!


But, what separates her from most girls her age celebrating their sixth birthdays is that she is in a wheel chair for the rest of her life dependent on a respirator to breathe for her.  She gets around by this motorized wheelchair using a joy stick.  Also what separates her is that in this attack that left her paralyzed is that it took the lives of her grandmother, mother and older brother.  This is what violence between warring factions will do.


Instead of being at home, she celebrated her birthday at the “Israeli Alyn Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Handicapped children” Maria’s father, Hamdi Amin, “is on call 24 hours a day” and “supervised the festivities. The Israeli army allowed his father, grandfather and sundry cousins to visit from Gaza. The hall, overlooking the Jerusalem forest, was awash with balloons.” Every little girl and boy deserves that at their birthday parties.


She received many gifts at her birthday party and thanked those in attendance in her native Arabic language as well as Hebrew that she learned from the hospital staff.  While she most likely did that out of necessity, I feel she also did so out of diplomacy.  A child’s heart can be very forgiving.  I often think that the mightiest of lessons comes from our children.


As I have told you in a previous column the Israeli Ministry is looking to deport her to a Palestinian clinic and her legal battle to stay at the Alyn Hospital will be decided by the Israeli Supreme Court.  The Palestinian clinic has even stated they are not equipped to deal with her case.  Again, I say to the Israeli Ministry, you fired that rocket; you must pay for her care.  Let that be your olive branch of good will.


While Maria’s father, Hamdi has decided to stay out of the politics that surrounds this case, he did state, “For her it's a matter of life or death. She can't move her arms or legs. She can't breathe on her own. There's nowhere in Gaza or the West Bank that can look after her. How can the Defence Ministry say the Ramallah hospital has to treat her?"

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I am a writer who currently writes pieces for my own blog I have been published by, and I was a guest on the Jay Diamond Radio Show on WRKO in Boston and have (more...)
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