Rising Death Toll

by Lorien E. Menhennett

My car ride home yesterday was quiet. Normally NPR is on, but the moment I heard the word “Gaza” I switched it off. I have heard too much about the rising death toll there—around 600 yesterday morning, if memory serves.

Rising death toll: I can’t count how many times I have heard iterations of that phrase since the current conflict in Gaza started. Or during others—Syria, Egypt, Iraq—the list goes on. It is a cold euphemism for loose limbs strewn about the street. A cold euphemism that protects us from other people’s reality: life among the grim reaper. A cold euphemism that allows us to hear the news, frown, throw up our hands, and move on with our day. I am as guilty of this as anyone.

How is this OK?

Yesterday morning, I heard that a hospital was hit. People died. There were supposedly military supplies nearby. And? This is justification? As a future physician, I am tasked with looking out for society’s most vulnerable—especially people who are sick or wounded, like those in that hospital, and those without physical protection or resources. The very people lumped into this rising death toll. This is unacceptable, in the worst possible way.

Don’t construe this as me siding with a political group. I don’t know who is right. No, I take that back—neither side is right; both are very wrong. Because their dual inability to keep even a temporary ceasefire is pushing that death toll ever higher. No, I’m not siding with politics. I’m siding with people. People who didn’t sign up for this. Who just want to eat and drink in peace. Say their prayers in peace. Work and play in peace. Live in peace. Instead, they are dead.

There seems no good way to conclude these thoughts except to say: I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t even know what to do with this information anymore.

And today, again, the death toll rises.