Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Softness of Being Human

It's been a rough week for a lot of the world. I tried to limit how much of the Japan catastrophe I let in, but there's that side of us humans, that side that feels its own mortality too keenly and so we are drawn to death and dying in a strange sort of relief that it wasn't our turn this time. But the scope of it is beyond us to take in all at once.

We can imagine it on a personal level when we see ourselves in the desperate faces hoping against all truth that a loved one survived. We grab our own loved ones tighter and try to look away, try not to see that it ends the same for us all, that the only difference is timing and how many of ourselves we leave behind to mourn.

I wasn't surprised to hear I wasn't the only one who was too numb to cry, too horrified by the magnitude of the triple disasters to let ourselves cry. I suspect it's  because there were simply too many dead to mourn them properly, to give them the tears they deserved. So we held it all back out of respect for the ones that would be missed if we cried for just a few.

But when this photograph appeared on numerous websites, I lost it completely. I cried for everyone I had ever lost because of a small, helpless dog who couldn't understand what had happened to his world. I knew, his human knew, everyone around him knew. But all that poor little dog knew was that something horrible had happened and now his human was there to love and comfort him, that it was going to be alright. It was the simplicity of it that got to me as it did to everyone who saw this photograph.

And then there's the horror of Libya. Like many people I have mixed feelings. I can't support war. I can't support killing. I'm the kind of person who picks up spiders and puts them outside. I don't want death anywhere near my hands. And yet, here's a cruel and ruthless dictator savagely murdering his own people. As horrible as that is, as much as I want there to be some other way to make him stop, as much as I want him to wake up and decide to be a decent human being, I know that's not going to happen.

I want to believe this is different somehow, these missiles are different than the ones that were launched in Iraq over oil, using the same language of justification, a dictator killing his own people. I'm jaded at the mercy missions of governments because I know there's oil in Libya too and the gluttony of the world for it makes killing more likely than if the country was nothing but olive trees and geckos.

Altruism always comes wrapped in bloody, oil-drenched rags and we wipe up our guilt by saying we're taking out a bad person instead of saying a lot of innocent people are dying too. How is our killing any different than his? Because it's for a better reason, a more noble cause? It is still death. It is still dying. It is still bombs and missiles and oil fields that mean much more than they should. Maybe a small dog caught in the rubble of a building brought down by a missile launched for "humanitarian" reasons would allow us to cry over the solution being as awful as the problem.

Anger is also a reprieve from the tears I'm sure would flow for days if I didn't have it as a valve to keep them in check. I'm angry at the photographs of elderly people fending for themselves in the rubble, the hardship they face simply because they are too old to get out and start over. I'm used to America not giving a shit about its old people. It's a selfish country and one obsessed with youth. All you have to do is listen to politicians talk about Social Security, Medicare, and other programs to know if a similar disaster hit here it would be the young and powerful first and the old could rot in the streets for all they would care.

But to see Japan inflicted with this lack of respect for its elderly is equally as devastating as the wreckage all around them. I want to yell at the TV loud enough that they will hear me: get out there and save the old people you selfish fucks! But I know the young are suffering too and so the old are expendable. Life is for those with years ahead of them, not behind them. It's another form of missiles being dropped to save lives.

My anger is also for nuclear reactors that were old and needed to be replaced, updated, modernized, but because Japan seems to have adopted the most disgusting of American greed, these ticking time bombs were left to decay so the shareholders, the investors, the powerful rich and wealthy could increase their profit margins.

It points out clearer than ever that if this could happen in Japan, a country devastated once before by the worst of nuclear power, then what hope have we in America of ever having a safe form of energy? What kind of safety considerations would the Enrons, the Exxons, the Koch Brothers, the Massey Mine owners, BP's and Halliburtons feel worth spending money on? I wouldn't trust them as far as I can spit, but here they are in charge of our energy sources, with nothing but their endless greed as a guarantee that money means more to them than human lives.

And today I received an email from Lydia. She wants to give her kids one more Christmas. She struggles through chemotherapy, radiation, all kinds of horrible medications just to drag out a few more months just so her children can have another Christmas.

Like I said, it's been a rough week.


No comments: