Point of View

October 19, 2006

A book on Marla Ruzicka is coming out soon, and it occurs to me that she was a real martyr, an energetic young woman who worked for peace in Iraq, helping the war's victims amid the chaos we created. Death overtook her in the form of a bomb on the airport road as she was driving to help someone. Her body fatally burned, she opened her eyes before dying, and exclaimed, with the joy that was typical of her, "I'm alive!"

She, not the suicide bombers, is someone to think of when you're thinking about genuine martyrdom. Her aim was to assuage suffering, not to increase it.

If there is a merciful God, and I am not sure that there is, it is reasonable to assume - in fact, even without the existence of such a deity - that we are in our time here to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us and to nurture it in whatever ways we can. It seems only natural.

While her singular courage, which came naturally to her, is hard for most of us to fathom, she, this saint in a war zone, would probably have agreed that there are many worthy ways to participate in the dance of life.

I don't know if she was religious in the formal sense. It seems that the major religions, while much that they teach is worthy, can through their codifying narrow the mind and spirit.

Today, everybody claims to have God on their side. One God says destroy the infidel. One God says defend our way of life, through offensive acts if need be. I would like to think I am in thrall to neither. I do not understand suicide bombing, why it would be thought that God would reward such a fanatical, nihilistic act. I also do not think God is for carpet bombing.

I know it's not a perfect world, and that even a thousand Marla Ruzickas won't be able to save it. I know, even thinking of her shining example, that it can be argued persuasively that suffering will only be mitigated through taking up arms. I know that at times people need to defend themselves.

I know, too, because of Marla Ruzicka's brief life - the name of the book, by the way, is "Sweet Relief: The Marla Ruzicka Story," by Jennifer Abrahamson (Simon & Schuster) and you can get it through www.civicworldwide.org - that we must bend our efforts toward finding a different way.