Phew, what a week on the blog we’ve had, especially with Cornelia’s impassioned and to-the-point piece on the link between autism and childhood vaccinations. If you didn’t read it, go right back there before you read another word of this post. Then send it on to everyone you have ever emailed in your entire life.
I’ve been thinking of that bumper sticker this week, you know the one, we’ve all seen it:
Cornelia’s post had me steaming, and came hot on the heels of two features on the news this week.
The first was from Zimbabwe. OK, so there’s a lot to get outrageous about right there. The news from Zimbabwe is bad at the best of times – it’s hard to believe it was once the bread-basket of Africa – and I think we sometimes become more than a little immune to the news of starving people in lines waiting for food, or families trying to make do with a tin roof over their heads in the teeming rain. Many – myself included – send checks to aid organizations and hope they’re not spending the money on junkets or “fact-finding missions.” You do what you can when those pictures prod you again. But a few nights ago I was watching a special BBC report on the way in which so many women have been pressed into prostitution, crossing the border into Zambia for their work, so that their children could be fed. Now, I know that some people’s eyes glass over when we bring prostitution into the conversation – there’s still a lingering sense that we’re talking about those scarlet women who won’t get a real job, rather than women and girls (and young men and boys) for whom there is no other option if they want to survive – but it broke my heart to listen to these women, including a former bank executive and another women who had her own hairdressing business, both now without work due to the Mugabe regime. They talked about the path to prostitution, about their shame, about the hollow grief that life brings to them with each new dawn. One woman wept as she said, “I pray to God to forgive me.” Forgive her? Forgive her? What a tragedy. I want to tear my hair out when I hear these stories, and at the same time feel just powerless. I want to know what is being done, what is happening to ease this collective pain other than “sanctions.”
In the same news broadcast came the story that France had threatened not to send athletes to China unless Tibet is free of violence from the occupying Chinese regime. Now, we know how Tibet is the elephant in the Chinese stadium this year, but my first thought was, “So, why aren’t we stepping up to the plate and making that same threat?” Where are all the other nations, where is the outrage? Well, of course, there are a slew of athletes who have been training for years for the opportunity to compete for an Olympic medal (I do understand what is at stake here) and we wouldn’t want to give up the chance to show the rest of the world what we can do – but more than anything it’s clear that we don’t want to get touchy with China do we, because China has been holding up the dollar by buying our currency, and of course they are trading partners.
But I’m outraged. I’m frustrated because one of the reasons we went into Iraq (other than the illusive WMD) was supposedly Saddam Hussein’s track record in human rights abuse. Not that he didn’t commit terrors, but where is the outrage, the demand for something better from those non-oil-bearing countries? Why aren’t we holding their feet to the fire, instead of just looking on while more women are raped, more are pressed into prostitution, and not so far away, while Buddhist monks are beaten to a pulp?
I guess the thing I am most upset about is the feeling of powerlessness. I sign petitions, I send donations, I have written letters and of course, prayed (that loving kindness meditation saves me from cardiac arrest, I am sure). I remember asking that almost unanswerable question before on the blog: What can we, the people, do? It is the collective voice that rises up and is heard, and it’s about time more of us asked the question of our government – such as it is – what are you going to DO, and WHEN? Trouble is, half of them are on those junkets and fact-finding missions paid for by the pharmaceutical companies, the oil companies, the energy companies ....
I remember, when I was about eight, sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper, and becoming very upset about the starving children in Biafra. I was raised by parents who were proponents of the, “There are children in Africa who would give anything to eat that broccoli, and you’re turning your nose up at it?” school of guilt, but it was a threat without substance, because I didn’t know what it was to starve, to be so hungry your stomach swelled out and you shed tears even though you were beyond crying. That week I emptied my coin savings bank into the Biafra collection box in our classroom, and even as my horse money went into that box, I knew there was a hunger in the eyes of the child on the poster that I could never dent.
I never want to get used to the images of suffering. I never want my eyes, the windows of my soul, to become immune. I want to be outraged by injustice, because acceptance is unacceptable to me. If I shrug my shoulders and say, “But there's nothing I can do," then I am complicit, and that scares the heck out of me.
And to give you a break from my ranting, I’m back on my book tour again (see you in Virginia this weekend, Jim) and next week will be off across the pond, so have asked James Grippando to sub for me – it’s always great to have him back at nakedauthors.com.