Dear Whoever – Disasters and atheists

She's young, she's innocent, she's growing up in our dirty old world. And she's wondering what the hell is going on.
This is the world through the eyes of a child.

girl bomb

Dear Whoever,

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

Natural disasters. What’s that all about? Earthquakes, like there was this week in Taiwan. Loads of people killed and injured for no apparent reason. I can see why people in previous centuries thought those sorts of things were divine punishments. Even today there are people who think that – mainly those who haven’t had much of an education.

In the developed world, where we’ve all got some kind of grasp of science, we can either imagine how an earthquake or something happens, or at least we will believe the experts who tell us how and why they happen.

Tectonic plates, seismic shifts, all that sort of thing. We don’t really understand, but we know somebody who does, so we’re not afraid that it’s going to happen to us if we do something bad.

I think that’s why there are so many people nowadays that don’t believe in God. They think humans are so clever that we can work everything out for ourselves.

I suppose that’s true up to a point. Scientists are finding things out all the time, or at least coming up with theories. The Big Bang Theory, for instance. That really makes me laugh. The idea that the universe wasn’t created by a brain, a mind, but by an unexplainable event way, way in the past, that started life on earth, and we’ve learned more and more and become more and more sophisticated to the point that now we’ve got space stations and brain surgery, microwavable popcorn and Justin Bieber.

I’m not knocking Justin Bieber. A lot of my friends like him and I suppose I must admit he’s quite cute.

But getting back to the debate, God vs science, the atheists often argue that if there was a god, how come bad things like earthquakes happen.

And all I can say to that is this: “I don’t know.” But if it’s all down to us to solve the world’s problems, we’re not doing a very good job of it, are we?

It’s a complex subject, probably the most complex one you could possibly think of. And wasn’t the Big Bang Theory disproved recently? That’s the thing about humans and science. We accept one theory until further down the line somebody proves it wasn’t true all along. So having faith in something a scientist tells you is just like having a religious faith.

In all the years man has roamed this planet, fouling it up as he went, nobody has proved that God didn’t exist. I know that’s not as good as proving that he does exist, but each to his own, in my opinion. Non-believers just like to mock other people, I suppose.

 

 

 

Dear Whoever – Gunned down in school

She's young, she's innocent, she's growing up in our dirty old world. And she's wondering what the hell is going on.
This is the world through the eyes of a child.

girl bomb

Dear Whoever,

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

As a student myself I’m wondering why it is that when we hear about random shooting sprees they often take place in schools. Out in the wider world, killers with guns tend to have specific targets, but in schools they just get in there and shoot as many people as they can and then kill themselves.

gun 1

It’s crazy to kill anybody anyway and I was going to say it’s a sin. But sinning is a religious thing, isn’t it? The word ‘sin’ implies doing something that you won’t like, you as in God, that is. So people who don’t believe in you or anything apart from themselves don’t actually sin (in their own mind, anyway). They just do something that is generally regarded as bad.

But as usual, I digress. Funny how when I’m talking to you I tend to wander off the point. I suppose it’s because there is so much I don’t know and I’d like to discuss everything with you – not that it would be a discussion really. I wouldn’t have much to say except asking the questions.

gun 4

Digressing again. Back to the shootings. This week it was at a school in Canada, which you don’t expect, because Canada is such a decent, civilized country. Americans make fun of Canadians as if they’re rather slow and not as clever, but really they’re just nice and kind of respectful. In general, that is. There’s always somebody who lets the side down.

But I think it’s true to say that when you hear about an atrocity like this you assume it’s going to have happened in a small town in America. That must be very worrying for them, and embarrassing to say the least. I would rather be considered slow and naïve than a potential lunatic.

But as I said, there’s always a bad apple. People think of Scotland as a peaceful country full of lads and lassies running through the hills and glens. But 20 years ago in Dunblane, where Andy Murray the tennis player comes from, there was a massacre when a man with several guns and loads of ammunition burst into a school gym and just shot people. Apparently he used to be a scout leader but people suspected he had an unhealthy interest in boys so his scout career and his business were ruined. I suppose he just felt he had to take it out on someone and he chose that school.

gun 3

Often in America it’s students who do it – the sort of loners who spend too much time thinking and not enough time actually doing something productive. I suppose I spend too much time thinking, really, but at least I’ve got you to talk to. So please keep me safe – from myself as well as others.

 

 

Dear Whoever – Merry Christmas

She's young, she's innocent, she's growing up in our dirty old world. And she's wondering what the hell is going on.
This is how the world looks through the eyes of a child.

girl bomb

Dear Whoever,

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

Christmas kid 1

Am I allowed to wish everyone a merry Christmas? Well I’m going to anyway, because I don’t see anything wrong with it. So only Christians think of it as Jesus’s birthday – that doesn’t matter. Everybody in so-called ‘Christian countries’ takes the day off on 25 December and it is our tradition to exchange presents and have a big meal with the family.

People who actually go to church, like my family does, are becoming rarer, but we’re not freaks. And there will be millions of people sitting around dining tables this Christmas who don’t see it as a religious thing at all.

Maybe it isn’t, anymore. Maybe it’s just a time when everybody tries to be better than they usually are – nicer to people and more grateful for what we’ve got. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be too poor to have food on the table – or even a table to put the food on – but there are unfortunate folks like that. There’s an old song that gets rereleased every December, talking about starving people in Africa who don’t have things that we take for granted.

When we sing along with this, who are we thinking about? Are we thinking about people who deserve to have a nice Christmas because they believe in what we believe in, or are we thinking about everyone? Personally, I’m thinking about everyone.

They don’t have to come to church with us. They don’t have to sing only Christmas carols that don’t have any religious content (Good King Wenceslas, for instance – nothing about Jesus or Mary in that one, it’s just an atmosphere).

Christmas kid 2

So, everyone: have a merry Christmas. Just because it’s a chance to think about forgetting our differences and starting again.

 

Dear Whoever – Refugees

She's young, she's innocent, she's growing up in our dirty old world. And she's wondering what the hell is going on.
This is how the world looks through the eyes of a child.

girl bomb

My prayer this week

Dear Whoever,

Refugees. Not a week goes by these days without stories about people running away from their own country and going to someone else’s because it is safer and they have a better chance of living a happy life there. It’s a complicated subject, because the world is full of people whose ancestors were originally from somewhere else.

refugees

I can’t see my parents ever doing that, because we’re quite happy where we are, but if a civil war broke out and suddenly the UK wasn’t a safe place to be, a lot of people would probably choose to leave, It would have to be a pretty bad situation, though, because you’d be giving up your home, your family, your friends and your whole way of life.

And what happens when you get to this new country is that they don’t really want you there and maybe they’re a bit scared of you because they don’t know how you’re going to behave. That’s how a lot of British people are about Muslims.

There’s this comedian called Omid Djalili whose parents are Iranian, although he was born and brought up in London, so he’s familiar with both cultures. He does a sketch where he jokes about being worried when he sees Arabs at an airport.

I assume he’s joking, anyway – you can never tell with comedians. But with his background you would think he understood Muslims, but it’s the terrorists people are afraid of, and how can you tell an innocent person from someone who wants to kill people?

My Dad says it’s not all one-way, either. What is called racism in this country is usually white people being mean to black people (and now Muslims). But my Dad has been robbed more than once in broad daylight in the street in the West Indies and he thinks it’s because he’s white. I have to admit we stick out like sore thumbs in places like that because we are so obviously not local. And the criminal element just see white people who are obviously richer than they are because they can afford to fly thousands of miles and pay for hotels and taxis and meals at restaurants, so why not steal from them?

Well I’ll tell you why they shouldn’t rob my Dad: because he’s my Dad. He’s a nice man, he’s not racist and he’s not rolling in money. We’re just getting on with our lives, minding our own business.

refugees 2

And I suppose that’s how immigrants feel. They’re only being themselves, so why should anybody treat them differently?

Anyway, Whoever, please bless all the good people who are having to flee their own home and make a new life somewhere else. But if you could somehow make it impossible for the extremists to get out and make trouble, that would be perfect. Let them blow themselves up in private if they have to blow anything up – but preferably don’t let them want to do that sort of thing in the first place.

 

Dear Whoever – Ban the gun

She's young, she's innocent, she's growing up in our dirty old world. And she's wondering what the hell is going on.
This is how the world looks through the eyes of a child.

girl bomb

Dear Whoever,

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

How about banning guns completely, all over the world, for everybody? So no one can ever be killed by a bullet again. If I ever become a person of influence, like a politician, that is going to be part of my manifesto.

It might sound like a crazy idea, but it could be done. Look at chemical weapons: when the world leaders decided they were too dirty even for war, they were banned and although you hear about them being used occasionally by armies of governments who think the world’s not going to notice, by and large they are gone.

Look at war crimes in general. It might seem like war is an anything-goes kind of thing, but rules were eventually drawn up and although it is impossible to really make sure everyone is playing by them, at least people know that if they don’t, they are going to be international pariahs.

girl gun

The gun is an especially controversial subject in the US, where there always seems to be somebody running amok, at the end of their tether and determined to kill a few people and then kill themselves. You would think it was just common sense to ban firearms altogether, and I think most Americans would agree, but there is a group there who are dead against it. They say the right to bear arms is in the constitution, and they use that fact – the precious nature of their constitution – to silence those who see sense.

I can only presume they think that if they as an individual don’t have a gun, they are immediately weaker than somebody who does have one. And that would be true, obviously. But if nobody had one – nobody in the world – then no one could harm them with one.

It’s so simple I’m amazed I have never heard the idea being proposed before.

But yes, I know there is a word that people throw at people like me: naïve. It’s a funny word, isn’t it? Funny looking, because it’s supposed to have two little dots over the i, and it just looks wrong. And what it means is sort of pathetically, cluelessly out of touch with the big bad world.

boy gun

I’m naïve because I’m young and have lived a sheltered life. If I was a teenage prostitute with an absent father and a mother out of her mind on drugs all the time, then I wouldn’t be naïve.

Well I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I am, and so is everybody my age that I know. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all naïve? I suppose that would take us back to the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve discovered what my Mum calls hanky panky. And for us to be back in that innocent state is what you, Whoever, wanted all along.

It’s a complicated issue, I know, and it will probably never happen. But that’s only probably. Not definitely.

So how about that? Think you could swing it?

Dear Whoever – please stop the terror

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

girl bomb

Dear Whoever,

Another week, another atrocity. The Mali hotel hostage thing was very different from the Paris attacks, but still another example of the fact that the human race has split into groups which don’t like each other.

african kids

What worries me, though, is that there is friction among people within the groups. Like many people, I adapted my Facebook pic with the French flag as a gesture of solidarity, but then immediately you had people saying we cared about Paris but not about things that happened in the rest of the world.

I don’t think that’s true. It’s just that you can’t worry about everything – there just isn’t time. And if I prayed to you about all the bad things that have happened and asked you to look after all the people who need it, but named them (as groups, not individually, obviously) I would be talking to you all day and all night.

I have faith in most of the world leaders and think they’re trying to do a good job, but there is always somebody criticizing them, and the people who do that are not the ones who have to make the decisions.

So what right do I, for instance, have to say that Barack Obama or David Cameron are wrong in what they choose to do? I don’t even know what I would do in their situation.

The French Prime Minister, Monsieur Hollande, says he’s going to get IS for this, but I don’t think he really knows how that would work. He’s just standing up to the people who have harmed his people and his country, so he has to say that, doesn’t he? Otherwise his own people will think he’s not capable of defending them.

girl for whoever

It’s like our dog, Zebra. Even when he was a puppy he would be barking like crazy any time someone or another dog went past our house. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do about it if anybody took him up on it, but he was doing his job. And funnily enough, even though he’s as gentle as can be, people who come into the garden – the plumber, the electrician and other visitors – are a bit scared of him because they don’t know him and he could be the kind of dog that bites.

So that’s what Mr. Hollande is doing: he’s barking at the terrorists and because they’re capable of doing terrible things themselves, they probably think he is too.

I just hope it all quietens down and we can go back to being worried about the weather instead. High winds and rain, that’s what I want to be concerned about. Actually I quite like it when there’s a storm going on and the rain is lashing my bedroom window, because I’m safe and sound inside. My dad is the Prime Minister around here and he barks a bit from time to time. Or maybe it’s a coalition with my Mum – she certainly behaves like the boss in certain situations.

Whatever, it’s not me who’s in charge, and most of the time I can carry on quite calmly, as if all is well in the world. Because that’s all I want, really, doesn’t everyone?

 

 

Dear Whoever – Thank you

Dear Whoever,

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

girl bw

Not too bad a week on the international horrible things front. New horrible things, anyway. There is always something in the news that you don’t want to see or hear but you do anyway. I suppose that’s how they make sure people are watching their TV news programmes and looking at their websites.

The news people must know something that I don’t. If I was running the BBC or CNN I would be trying to find nice things to tell the world about.

So, the plane crash in Egypt probably was a bomb like everyone thought. At least the victims’ bodies have been flown home now and the families can bury them and get on with their lives. That’s what we did with my Gran a few years ago. It was a bit of a shock when she passed away, and everything was sad and weird for a while, but the feeling passes. I used to go to the cemetery and put flowers on her grave, but after a while I stopped doing that.

Actually, Whoever, I used to stand there looking at her gravestone and talking to her and you. Out loud. I hope you both heard me. I used to put freesias in the little metal vase. Freesias are good for that because for one thing they’re cheap but pretty and smell nice, and for another thing they’re not as delicate as some flowers.

They’re always dead by the time you go back, but I suppose if you put a vase in your back garden the same thing would happen. Cut flowers need to be looked after, like when my Dad buys my Mum some, which he does from time to time.

Nobody’s ever bought me flowers yet, but Mum says there’s plenty of time for that. It’s a funny thing to do, anyway, giving somebody something that isn’t going to last. It’s like chocolates: you eat them and they’re gone, so is that how long their feelings last, the person who gave them to you?

Nothing seems to last, does it? Everybody dies, mobile phones get outdated, laptops start doing funny things because they’re three years old. What used to be your favourite t-shirt gradually loses its colour and the shape goes a bit funny so you get a new one and that’s your favourite then.

black girl

I suppose I’ll just have to get used to it. Anyway, thank you for the fact that when one thing finishes another one comes along. I’ve decided I’m going to be an optimist, because that seems like a better way to do things. Thank you for me and everyone I know not being on that plane. I’m sorry for the people who were, of course, so I hope this doesn’t make me sound selfish.

But thank you for looking after me and I hope my Gran is okay. If she’s with you I’m sure she will be. Those people who don’t believe in you, I wonder what they think happened to their Gran when she died.

 

 

 

Dear Whoever – Mysterious plane crashes

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

plane crash

Mysterious plane crashes. There was another one this week when a Russian plane crashed in Egypt and everyone on board was killed.

Why does this keep happening? Planes crash for no apparent reason and others disappear, never to be seen again. You didn’t hear about it so much a few years ago, so presumably it didn’t happen so much.

And nobody ever seems to come up with a simple explanation. It makes you wonder. I am told that statistically air travel is safer than many other things. People will tell you you’re more likely to get run over by a bus, and they think that’s a clever thing to say.

Well it doesn’t fill me with confidence, because it’s just a version of the whole parents-comforting-children thing, which is very nice but I’m beginning to doubt it. Whatever you’re worried about, your parents will tell you it’s going to be okay, but how do they know? They can’t guarantee anything.

Many people pray about that sort of thing, too. They ask their god to make this or that happen or prevent something. I do it with you, don’t I? And it makes me feel better. And nothing really bad has ever happened to me. But ministers die horrible deaths. Jews are very vocal about religion, but look what Hitler did to them in the Second World War.

I tell you, Whoever, sometimes I think the atheists are right, and we’re on our own down here. I don’t want to think that, and I keep bobbing back up to the surface when I feel I’m sinking, but it’s not easy.

girl

There are so many different interpretations of the Bible and probably the Qu’ran and other books too.

Some people think we are getting close to the time when Jesus will come back to the world and sort everything out. Well I hope he does, because we’re certainly making a mess of things here and it feels like it’s getting out of control.

If there is a god who is devoted to doing good, is there also really a devil determined to poop everything up?

Well, I’m sticking with you, Whoever, because you’re the best chance I’ve got. But it’s difficult to convince other people. So please keep your arms around me and see me through this troubled period on earth. I personally don’t wish anything bad on anyone, so if everyone takes the same attitude, we should be okay, shouldn’t we?

 

Dear Whoever

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

making face

Refugees. Not a week goes by these days without stories about people running away from their own country and going to someone else’s because it is safer and they have a better chance of living a happy life there. It’s a complicated subject, because the world is full of people whose ancestors were originally from somewhere else.

I can’t see my parents ever doing that, because we’re quite happy where we are, but if a civil war broke out and suddenly the UK wasn’t a safe place to be, a lot of people would probably choose to leave, It would have to be a pretty bad situation, though, because you’d be giving up your home, your family, your friends and your whole way of life.

And what happens when you get to this new country is that they don’t really want you there and maybe they’re a bit scared of you because they don’t know how you’re going to behave. That’s how a lot of British people are about Muslims.

There’s this comedian called Omid Djalili whose parents are Iranian, although he was born and brought up in London, so he’s familiar with both cultures. He does a sketch where he jokes about being worried when he sees Arabs at an airport.

muslim girl 2

I assume he’s joking, anyway – you can never tell with comedians. But with his background you would think he understood Muslims, but it’s the terrorists people are afraid of, and how can you tell an innocent person from someone who wants to kill people?

My Dad says it’s not all one-way, either. What is called racism in this country is usually white people being mean to black people (and now Muslims). But my Dad has been robbed more than once in broad daylight in the street in the West Indies and he thinks it’s because he’s white. I have to admit we stick out like sore thumbs in places like that because we are so obviously not local. And the criminal element just see white people who are obviously richer than they are because they can afford to fly thousands of miles and pay for hotels and taxis and meals at restaurants, so why not steal from them?

Well I’ll tell you why they shouldn’t rob my Dad: because he’s my Dad. He’s a nice man, he’s not racist and he’s not rolling in money. We’re just getting on with our lives, minding our own business.

And I suppose that’s how immigrants feel. They’re only being themselves, so why should anybody treat them differently?

Anyway, Whoever, please bless all the good people who are having to flee their own home and make a new life somewhere else. But if you could somehow make it impossible for the extremists to get out and make trouble, that would be perfect. Let them blow themselves up in private if they have to blow anything up – but preferably don’t let them want to do that sort of thing in the first place.

 

 

Dear Whoever

I’m praying to you but I don’t know who you are. My grandparents used to pray to God, but now lots of people say there is no such person and anyone who’s religious is just imagining it. And other people say there is, but not the one that Christians call God, the one who had a son called Jesus. They have other names for their god. Whatever, this is what’s on my mind this week.

nymph

Dear Whoever,

I suppose I should introduce myself to the people reading this, but I’m not going to because exactly who I am is not important. What is important is that there are billions of people in the world who are like me deep down. We all want peace and we all want to live happily, with a roof over our head, not cold but not too warm. We want to be fit and healthy and safe. Actually, I am those things, and I’m grateful for it, although I can’t really imagine anything else, because as I said, that’s how my life has always been.

I have parents who live together and seem happy with each other. Many of my friends’ parents are divorced or were never married in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with that, I know. Or rather my parents tell me there’s nothing wrong with it. When they were kids, everyone had a Mum and Dad living together, but I gather that was not necessarily because they were happy. It was because they couldn’t afford to get divorced. My Mum and Dad have been married forever and they’re going to be together forever. Don’t ask me how I know that, I just do.

girl

muslim girl

I’ve got lots of friends and a cat and a laptop and a phone. What more does anybody need?

Our family has enough money, even though my Dad, in particular, would like to have more because he says there’s always something cropping up that needs paying for. The car breaks down, the cat gets ill, prices go up, and the sums he and Mum have done for balancing the books, as they call it, don’t add up anymore.

One thing we don’t have to worry about is healthcare, because we live in the United Kingdom, which is known as the UK, and we have something called the National Health Service (NHS). I’m not sure exactly where that gets its money from, but I think it’s from people who work, and they pay a certain amount every month which ends up in a hospital’s bank account. Something like that.

Anyway, I’ve never seen my parents pay the doctor, and I’ve never been in hospital, so I wouldn’t know about that. I’ve got a cousin who’s a nurse, though, and he tells me the government is always trying to save money by giving the NHS less of it. Yes, I said ‘he’. It’s not that unusual to have male nurses, is it? You see a lot of female doctors.

So that’s what I’m talking to you about tonight, Whoever. Bless the doctors and nurses and the specialists who know everything there is to know about whatever it is they’re interested in.

Ideally I would ask you to never let anybody get ill or have an accident, but I suppose if you could arrange that, you would have done it by now. Why do bad things happen to good people? Ross said that on Friends when his shampoo leaked in his luggage on the way back from holiday.

Friends is pretty funny even though it’s ancient now. My parents have the complete box set and I’ve watched all of it. It’s a very grownup programme and it shows how life is for adults, so maybe I will live in an apartment like they do one day. I want to be like Rachel because she’s really pretty and works in the fashion world. Monica’s more like my Mum and Phoebe’s crazy. Joey’s nice and he’s very popular with girls. But he never has an actual girlfriend. That’s weird. It’s not like he couldn’t get one. Maybe he’s not as confident as he pretends.

Sorry, Whoever. I digress, as my English teacher says. I don’t know why it’s not ‘I am digressing’ or ‘I have digressed’, but that’s what he says. So please keep everybody safe and well and if you can organize for the Friends people to get back together, that would be great.

kids