Monday, October 10, 2005

Tragedy atop tragedy


When growing up, our parents try to shrink our world, make it small enough for us to understand so that we can gradually adjust to the cruelty and sadness that will be prolific in adulthood. They do a great job, especially when you're 11 and to you, civic-minded means that you've done several badges in your scout troop.

It's not that you don't know about our history of strife, but it's that you know little about current strife that is making history. Your parents discourage violent movies and TV, which is to say that I grew up watching local TV news that didn't feature murders and rapists. Not that I would understand it. Young minds don't really fathom tragedy all too well when they are detached from it. It's literally in another world, a world outside of the one created for formative youth.

I had a conversation with a man that was upset about "Doonesbury" setting up shop on the funny pages. It's a comic, so it belongs with the other comic illustrations, but he didn't like it there because of its political message. It made me think back to when I was an 8-year-old. I didn't understand "Doonesbury" then, and I'm sure that his 8-year-old grandson doesn't either, that is, unless his parents haven't been doing a very good job of sheltering him.

Which brings me to my point, I think. I was just watching an excerpt from a CNN newscast about the Guatemalan landslides brought on by the wrath of Hurricane Stan. So many people so close to a national tragedy that I can't even imagine. Almost 700 dead ... Nearly 400 are missing. Government officials are declaring entire hamlets and villages as mass graves. People are hauling the decaying remains of their loved ones on makeshift stretchers through the muck and mud of what's left of their homes, hopes and livelihood.

The CNN video cuts to Darfur refugees. Mothers with scars across their faces and bodies screaming out for their starving bastard children, both the victims of rape and bloodshed. Small children are lying on their backs, so emaciated that each individual rib, bone and feature of their body seems to have its own breath as the child labors for air. Tape holds a feeding tube to the child's mouth. It didn't have enough energy to chew when the Red Cross rescued them.

As tears started to come from my eyes, I felt so foolish and self-centered for wondering if I should bring my lunch to the workshop instead of eating what they were providing ...

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