I watched them marching toward the border. Row upon row of them in the hot, bright sun. They marched without guns, without tanks and missiles -- although some, like the shepherd boy David, did pick up a few rocks to hurl into the impossible distance.
I watched them stream down the green hill toward the heaps of dirt and wire. I saw them, old and young, walk toward the occupied land. I saw them come closer -- close enough for the heavily-armed occupying force to have them in range.
From a distance -- behind the barbed wire, with the occupiers, where the cameras that showed the scene were set -- I heard the dull pops and parps of the guns as they fired. I saw the marchers kept streaming down the hill, although the first wave was now breaking in disarray. I heard the guns again. I saw some marchers fall, others scramble back, and still more coming down.
Pop. Pop. Parp. The dull sounds, intermittent, careful. The bullets whizzed across the distance -- the impossible distance, which no stone could traverse. The bullets threw up clouds of dirt, they struck flesh. I saw bodies twisting and going down. The march became a rescue party. The dead and wounded were lifted onto sheets and stretchers as the bullets kept coming: dull, intermittent, careful. Pop. Pop. Parp.
Finally, as many lay dead, many lay bleeding in bright, hot sun, finally, across the distance, from behind the barbed wire and hot-barrelled weapons, I watched the canisters of tear gas sailing through the air, trailing streams of smoke. They landed on the dirt and the green grass, and spewed their painful, irresistible fog.
Now, at last, the marchers -- who had kept coming in the face of the bullets -- turned and fled. Carrying the dead, the dying and bleeding, they ran back up the green hill.
Then suddenly the scene shifted to an anonymous government office, where a comely young spokeswoman, speaking crisp, American-accented English, explained that these unweaponed marchers walking in the hot, bright sun posed such an overwhelming threat to the heavily-armed occupying forces behind the walls of barbed wire that there was no alternative, no other choice, but to open fire across the impossible distance that no stone could traverse, to fire into the unarmed crowd, to fire again and again, to watch them twist and fall into the mounds of dirt. No choice. No alternative.
Her appearance on the screen lasted almost as long as the time given to the marchers and their dead. The reporter, who was standing near the border, behind the barbed wire, who had seen it all with his own eyes, dutifully concluded his piece with geopolitical context -- one side says this, the other says that, plots and machinations lie behind every public outpouring. But even given all that, even he -- speaking as the marchers were fleeing from the noxious clouds behind him -- even he could not avoid the obvious question: Why use the tear gas last? Why shoot first? Why fire into the bodies, into the unarmed marchers, and kill them, when all along you were equipped with the proven means to disperse them without death and blood?
It seems, then, there was a choice for the occupying force. And they made the that choice. The choice to kill, to speak with death and blood across the impossible distance.
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