The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was a senseless, inhumane and barbaric act.
Two hundred ninety-eight men, women and children lost their lives. About two-thirds of them were from the Netherlands. As someone who was born and raised in Holland, I am devastated — and I am livid.
I am devastated by the loss of innocent life. I am livid about the disrespectful way the dead have been treated and about the way the crash site was intentionally compromised.
I'm haunted by images of the smoldering wreckage fallen from the sky. In the horrible rubble of bent steel and burnt fuselage, a row of chairs came down undamaged, passengers still strapped in their seat belts. One photo shows a victim's hand, palm upward, in a gesture of terror and despair.
Toys, passports, books and open luggage tell stories of families, lovers, AIDS experts, students and flight crew. Their lives have been desecrated, and their broken bodies were looted by locals looking for jewelry, cellphones and credit cards.
Families in shock are trying to come to terms with what happened. The Dutch town of Hilversum, where I spent most of my working life, lost three families. The mayor described visiting an elderly couple. They lost their grandchildren as well as their son and daughter-in-law. Both 86 years old, the frail couple were inconsolable.
The northern town of Roden, where I grew up, is also in mourning. The Van der Linde family — father Rob, mother Erna, daughter Merel (age 17), and son Mark (12) — were looking forward to a fun vacation. Merel had taken her final exams. Mark just finished primary school.
Two other victims, Lisanne Engels and Hannah Meuleman, lived in the central town of Utrecht. That's where I spent 19 years of my life. Lisanne studied medicine. She was on her way to do an ophthalmology internship in Malaysia. Hannah studied psychology and was traveling to Bali with her boyfriend.
Even though I now live and work in the U.S., I can't stop thinking about the passengers of Flight MH17.
This crash is an example of what people do to others when driven by fear, extremism and hate. It shows a total lack of respect for human life, decency and dignity.
In one way, this crash is "just" a symptom of a much deeper problem. It brings us to one of the most fundamental questions we are facing today: How can we resolve our conflicts in a peaceful way?
If we don't find the answer or answers to this question, more innocent people will be hurt by hate and will lose their lives, wherever they may live.
Of course there are no easy answers, but that doesn't mean we should stop looking. And rather than leave it to the politicians and warlords, we should start close to home. If we can't overcome our differences on a small scale, we don't stand a chance when it comes to resolving the big geopolitical issues of our time.
In this quest to end conflicts peacefully, I think the women of the world should take the lead.
For centuries, men have had their chance, and they blew it big time. Instead of aggression, we need compassion. Women are more capable of leaving their egos at the door; they are more caring and compassionate, and able to compromise.
Imagine for a moment what would happen if women were to take over in the Middle East. Would Israelis and Palestinians still be fighting each other? Would Sunnis and Shiites still kill one another? Can you imagine a U.N. summit led by people like Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban, and Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and U.N. human rights official? Would the world finally take concrete steps to combat climate change, child labor, gender inequality and starvation?
What would happen in Russia, if it weren't led by a testosterone-driven, power-hungry leader? Would it still be providing rockets to the rebels in Ukraine?
It is too late for those who died on Flight MH17, but we owe it to them to try harder, to do better, and to take unusual steps to bring people together, and make peace.
Otherwise, history will simply repeat itself, and we will soon mourn the loss of other people who do not deserve to die.
Paul Strikwerda, a native of the Netherlands who came to the U.S. in 1999, lives in Wilson where he works as a voice actor and writer. His blog can be found at http://www.nethervoice.com.