Ali Gray

Ali Gray

Questioning the Lines

   Every cloud has a silver lining.
   That being said, I need to warn that sometimes I resort to clichés. I’m not trying to be redundant, I promise you that. It’s just that when I try to be creative, especially with something large scale, I start comparing incredibly mundane objects to one another, like I’m taking the cliché and then substituting the main words with the help of my Microsoft thesaurus. So, take the aforementioned warning before I write the next couple words.
   Maybe pirates died also.
   There, I said it.
   I understand it’s monstrously crass to look at the tsunami tragedy this way. The numbers killed, missing, homeless, starving and diseased are beyond my comprehension. The horror of the experience, to live through hell, only to wonder where to sleep tonight, if there will be food for tomorrow, when will supplies come, why is my family still missing, is all something that my sheltered American life has left me unprepared for. I want to be able to mourn with survivors, to grieve for those killed, but halfway around the world I only see the increase of numbers, statistics.
   I don’t want my crude insensitivity, the emotions I lack the capability of understanding, to do injustice to those personally affected by this calamity. Instead, I’d like to suggest that, just maybe, in this ever-rising number of deaths, nature managed to catch a group that has eluded Asian governments for centuries.
   Maybe I’m putting too many warnings into my writings. I can’t help it. I think what I’m trying to say, is that there are some people that the world could stand to lose. And a catastrophe accomplished this. But I don’t want to say it.
The Malaccan Strait pirates terrorized commercial vehicles. They threatened with guns, knifes and manpower. A BBC news report Killings by pirates on the rise quoted the International Maritime Bureau as saying that pirate attacks and killings would not decrease “unless Indonesia takes serious steps to address the problem.” (July 2004)
Have you ever said that there is someone that you wished would die? Don’t lie. No one really thinks Saddam Hussein should be alive, half the country is pushing the death penalty for Scott Peterson, and I have personally said it more than once about an ex-boyfriend. But if there are bad people, and they die along with good, innocent people, is it possible to say, “well, the world’s better without some of them,” without sounding ignorant and insensitive? If Saddam dies in a bomb that kills everyone in a children’s center, can we be happy? If Scott Peterson accidentally drowned while murdering his wife, do we feel a sense of vengeance?
These particular pirates accounted for 27% of the world’s piracy in 2003. In the same year they killed 21 seamen and took 350 hostages, of which 70 are still missing. They plagued this area, yet since December 26th, there hasn’t been a single reported attack.   Is this good? Bad question. Of course it’s good. Vessels are moving up and down those waters bringing money, food and supplies to tsunami torn countries, without worry of attacks.
More to my point, I think it is wonderful if the Malaccan Strait is pirate-free. In reality though, the problem has nothing to do with the lack of terrorism in the strait. It’s something deeper, this feeling that we get, an intrinsic guilt for celebrating while the masses mourn. Different emotions flow from the same catastrophe. My words of sympathy, “maybe pirates died also,” aren’t going to restore parents to orphaned children or lift the hearts of the homeless. This silver lining just represents more casualties, more reminders of how drastically this past month has changed their entire lives.
Destruction is transient. Homes will be reconstructed, family members buried, the diseased and injured returned to health. Maybe the pirates will return. Maybe the tsunami scattered them, and those alive are also lamenting their dead, reuniting with their missing and gathering arms. Maybe they will attack again. And then how do we feel? Do we grieve then, in a time when everyone else celebrates the return to normalcy? Do we feel guilty for being upset that pirates were rebuilding their ships when millions have been through so much and are just now rebuilding their lives? Will the pirates become the black lining of the fabric of recovery?
Maybe nothing there are no linings. Maybe we live life and feel emotions, never knowing if they are right or wrong, if they are too guilty, too celebratory, too apathetic, too despairing, or too joyous.
Chances are good that pirates will again infest the Malaccan Strait waters. The region is too busy, filled with ships, surrounded by corrupt governments, and brimming with opportunities. And maybe that doesn’t matter. It means that life goes on, that healing happens and that things will fall back into some sort of rhythm.
Maybe pirates died also. It will never bring back the lost. Silver linings may exist, but either way both the innocent and the malevolent are gone. Feel guilt, sorrow, remorse, or rejoice, but at least react. It is the only sensitive thing to do.

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