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Volume 2, Issue 3
Autumn 2006:

The Butterfly and the Dump Truck

Brian T. Maurer

Cell 2 Soul. 2006 Autumn; 2(3):a6

Photographer: Thomas Doty
[Larger Image]

Waiting in my car at the traffic light, I caught sight of it: a large yellow and black butterfly floundering on the tarmac.

Several cars sped by, blowing the delicate insect about on the road. In desperation, it gripped the macadam with its tiny feet, then struggled to lift both wings from where they lay to one side.

Finally it succeeded, wings upright together. The butterfly lifted off, flapping wildly, just as the traffic light changed to green.

Immediately opposite from where I sat mesmerized by this microcosmic spectacle, a monstrous eight-wheeled dump truck crossed in front of my car, its amber signal blazing as the driver let out the clutch and accelerated through the intersection. I glimpsed the grey outline of a bulldog emblazoned on the chrome grill, glistening in the morning sun. Several tons of steel caught the yellow form in mid air, and left it lying motionless on the road in its wake.

Only I had witnessed this seemingly insignificant act of involuntary slaughter on my way to the office.

Yesterday, the news of the death of Islamic terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi broke. The facts have been pouring in over the past twenty-four hours. Acting on an intelligence tip, American forces dropped two 500-pound bombs on a safehouse north of Baghdad where Zarqawi was meeting with his associates. According to early news reports, six people died in the attack. A woman and a child were among the dead.

Like many Americans, I felt relieved after hearing of Zarqawi's demise. Here was the leader largely responsible for inciting those terrorist groups that have carried out scores of suicide bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings in the war in Iraq — dead.

But I find my thoughts drifting to the nameless child who also died in the airstrike. Who was he? The senior American military spokesman in Iraq said the identities of the woman and child killed in the attack had yet to be confirmed.

Like the butterfly whose death I witnessed on my way to work this morning, this child just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A news broadcast showed youths picking up a child's sandal and a stuffed toy after the airstrike, perhaps the only artifacts left in testimony of this unknown short life.

Back in the Vietnam era during my youth, a popular phrase took root: War is not healthy for children and other living things. Perhaps it is time to bring it out, dust it off and reconsider it anew. It seems equally apropos for our current conflict.

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