For the Birds Radio Program: Iraq Invasion

Original Air Date: March 20, 2003

How can anyone talk about birds right after her country has invaded another?

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It seems weird to get on the radio and blithely talk about birds the morning after we’ve invaded another country. If the morning after September 11 we’d invaded Saudi Arabia, where just about all the actual terrorists had come from, that would have made more sense than attacking Iraq, whose Saddam Hussein is despised by fundamentalist Muslims for his secularism. During the last Gulf War, I went on strike and stopped producing “For the Birds.” I just couldn’t pretend that life was normal, that anything I had to say fit in in a world gone awry. But it was an empty gesture. By all accounts, George Bush senior never heard about it, and my little posturing did nothing at all to hasten the end of the war.

And there is something about birds, and the natural world, that helps us keep our sanity in the face of horror. As long as bombs aren’t raining on our world, we can escape to the natural world for some solace. Rachel Carson understood this when she wrote:

Now I hear the sea sounds about me; the night high tide is rising, swirling with a confused rush of waters against the rocks below my study window. Fog has come into the bay from the open sea, and it lies over water and over the land’s edge seeping back in to the spruces and stealing softly among the juniper and the bayberry…Hearing the rising tide, I think how it is pressing also against other shores I know…On all these shores there are echoes of past and future: of the flow of time, obliterating yet containing all that has gone before; of the sea’s eternal rhythms - the tides, the beat of surf, the pressing rivers of the currents - shaping, changing, dominating; of the stream of life, flowing as inexorably as any ocean current, from past to unknown future.

Whether we live on the shores of Lake Superior or the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the sound of water coursing through our lives is the sound of life itself, reminding us that on this little planet we’re all in this together.

Keep abreast of the news—at least as much of the news as the government will allow. But get outside, too. Days are lengthening, chickadees are singing. woodpeckers drumming, spring migration continues. Anne Frank was a little girl who lived, and died, during another nightmare in history. She wrote:

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.