Dip, dive, whirl and swirl, three steps ahead, two back, feign and dodge. A waltz, a tango. Strobe lights bounce off mirrored balls hanging from the ceiling.
We are at a masked ball, reaching for the hand of one partner and then another, not sure who is behind each mask. See the fox face, rusty red? The noblewoman in black lace? Behind the column, is that magician kissing a ballerina en pointe?
A grizzly bear leads a lamb by a ribbon. An orangutan teases a leopard as a harlequin does handstands. Death is here, a scythe in one hand and the Mad Hatter in the other.
Nothing is as it seems, or perhaps everything is as it seems, which is the best disguise. We strive to see who is who and what is what in a cacophony of color, sound, and moving shapes. People disappear. Blood red dominates the smear of colors.
We strive to see behind the masks. Who is friend and who is foe? Who is aid and who is injury? We must be careful not to misjudge a friend as an enemy. Doesn’t misjudging or denying a friend create an enemy?
Sounds hit us, of guns, bombs, children crying. Louder is the silence, of hunger, kidnapping, destroyed cities, and of guilt.
Some people breech the chaos to tend children, refugees, the ill and starving, the bombed and shredded – those too vulnerable and wounded to have masks. Their faces are bare and tell us all.
My five-year-old granddaughter told me there are bad people in the world. “Pirates.”
“Pirates?” I asked.
“From Somali. There are pirates from Somali.”
I did not tell her that Somali pirates are among our lesser evils. Did the band just start playing “Pirates of Penzance”?
You want evil, I’ll tell you evil.
Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, any part of Syria, the killings and destruction in Gaza, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Kenya. And Yemen, the Congo, and, yes, Somali.
And ISIS. Members of ISIS wear ugly black masks, which is somehow more honest: I am a monster, I behead people.
The U.S. Congress appears more innocent, perhaps because sock hops appear innocent even when the dance floor is taken over by the popular high school kids who got C’s and D’s in science, math, and geography, while the nerds have their backs against the wall.
Ted Cruz heads key Senate committees and is running for president but doesn’t believe in global warming. Tom Cotton, who received $1 million from a conservative political group that supports military solutions for Israel, fancies himself a pen pal with foreign heads of state.
Congressional masks tend to look alike – fools with “This Space for Sale” printed across their foreheads. (The few good men in Congress are mainly women.)
At the global masked ball, dancers shift, weave, clash, sell arms, form unholy alliances, claim lands and people. Masks fall off and are grabbed again. (Think Netanyahu, though that mask might as well remain off. We have seen too much.)
And us? We who think we are good people? We who have trouble seeing through our own masks? We stumble. We fall. We try to regain our balance. We try to do our best.
Duck, there’s a drone overhead!
In the madness, this global confusion and anger and fear and camouflage, there is one sure line of sanity. That is to care for all children no matter what. All children must be safe from more than Somali pirates. They must be loved and protected and educated and allowed to dance beautiful dances together, in trust, in joy, in their full humanity, unwounded, unafraid, knowing we live best when we live in harmony.