by Trey Smith at The Rambling Taoists
Just like the rest of you, I go about my daily routine. I have household chores, time spent writing blog posts, excursions into town and visiting with my family and neighbors. Sure, I see the headlines — when there ARE headlines of this nature — but I soothe my conscience by telling myself that a person can’t think about it 24/7. I’ve got my own life to live.
In many parts of the world today — Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Bahrain, Syria and so many points in between and beyond — tears fall daily. Some are due to grinding and unrelenting poverty. Some are due to stifling oppression and exploitation. Still others are due to the ugly vestiges of war. And, for some, it is a grotesque mingling of all of these factors.
I never see the tears. I don’t hear the cries.
I read about them, here and there. Sometimes their stories are told under huge banner headlines. More often than not, their stories are buried on page A16 next to the ads for septic cleaning services and a buy-one, get-one free coupon for a hamburger and fries. The articles skim the surface of the gut-wrenching horrors these people live with.
Sometimes, after reading or hearing one of these stories, a tear may streak MY face. It doesn’t last long, though. There is dinner to prepare, a ballgame on the telly or a good book I can’t wait to get back to. I feel their pain, but only in the most ephemeral sense.
I read recently that, since the campaign started on the last day of March, there have been approximately 6,000 bombing missions by NATO in Libya. Six thousand! That comes out to around 50 per day. How many actual bombs and/or missiles does that entail?
More importantly, what is the ratio of tears to bombs? How many lives have been irrevocably broken and destroyed? How many mothers and fathers have lost sons and daughters? How much anguish has resulted from the threat of carnage that we never see nor hear?
We in the westernized world seem to have a very myopic definition of compassion. As Keith Olbermann stated in the video featured here earlier today, our sense of compassion only seems to extend to those in our tribe or those who are like us. We reach out to loved ones and, maybe, people in our communities to express our caring and concern. But too many of us draw the line there. Everyone beyond this imaginary line is greeted with little more than a meager ho-hum or complete disinterest.
For compassion to mean ANYTHING in a substantive way, it must be extended to those who suffer beyond our immediate gaze. If we only “care” for those in the closest proximity, it becomes little more than emotional masturbation. It makes us feel oh so good without having to extend ourselves more than a little bit.
As long as we continue to support leaders and policies that rain down suffering on our fellow brothers and sisters, it becomes untenable to say that most of us understand what genuine compassion entails. If we rarely bat an eyelash for the tears not seen and the cries not heard, what does that ultimately say about our humanity?
Not much. Not much at all.