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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One World. No, Really.

In a world where tragedy seems to be around every corner, it feels like we often are biding our time until the next natural (or unnatural) act of devastation leaves us reeling from the evening news.

It's almost an expected outcome - as the world spins on its axis - we hold our breaths knowing that its just a matter of time when the cadence of all the moving parts, pieces and souls on this planet will lose rhythm with the ground below us.

Whether its the dynamic whisper of a dance between two tectonic plates that gets interrupted as one steps on the others' toes beneath the ocean, to set off the chain reaction of events that culminate in enormous waves overtaking one of the world's most powerful cities.

Whether its the devastation that is left behind by two planes colliding with the tallest buildings in the financial capital of the world.

Whether its a debilitating earthquake that leaves thousands of people dead, injured, orphaned and hungry.

As we all seem to know - it's generally not a question of "if," but a question of:

and "To whom?"

While many of us pray for those who are affected, send money, organize fund raisers, bemoan the sadness of these events on Facebook - while our hearts and minds are affected, we can generally turn off the sounds of the cries, the wails, the collateral damage with the flick of our remote controls or by closing our web browsers.

We gain a whole different perspective. We applaud our corporate matching programs and rally up our families funds to send on - to help some of the nameless children who we see Christian Amanpour covering or to help make the devastating living conditions that Anderson Cooper tells us about, just that much better.

Because we want to help. Most of us genuinely do. And, if you are anything like me, every time something like this happens - you think to yourself:

"My God. This puts things into such perspective."

And then time passes. Anderson Cooper leaves the devastated area. The news crews withdraw while aid agencies continue to ensure their resources can assist for as long as they can, but funds dry up and there is too much need to address and not enough money in the world or enough resources to fix some of the larger problems.

We, who vowed to hug our kids a little harder - and not sweat the small stuff, may still hug our kids pretty tight - but we go back to the small stuff. And we DO sweat it and let us derail that perspective which we just gained.

When the tsunami hit Japan, my heart stopped beating and I could not take in what had happened.

I didn't find much solace when I went online - in addition to the growing catastrophic impacts being reported - the asinine, ignorant - and completely inhumane comments I saw appear in my news feed (comments on my friends' statuses - thank god none of these commenters were my own "friends") made me want to shut that channel off as well.

"Do you think the Japanese prayed for us when it came to Pearl Harbor?" one commenter asked a fellow Facebook friend, after she had put "Prayers for Japan" in her status line.

I was so disturbed by the comment, I didn't know how one should respond. "Crawl back in your hole, you snake" seemed like it lacked some maturity, while "Are you the spawn of satan, you little m%^%^fer?" also seemed fairly juvenile.

I did not realize that there were lots of comments like that one. I didn't even know people still thought that way.

But then again - I never knew that there were people who thought Haiti deserved to be struck by earthquakes because of its historically documented (hmm, hmm) "pact with the devil."

The reality is, when the world encounters devastation - we can act in many ways. One would hope that we can rally together to offer hope, prevent further tragedy and save as many lives as we can with whatever resources we have. We can offer prayer, money, assistance.

Or we can respond with fear, ignorance, and arrogance.

But in a world where some of the boundaries and identities we have built for ourselves seem to blur more and more as we truly become an international community, I think people need to think just a little bit harder about holding onto belief systems that are as terroristic in many ways as some of the evils most Americans have been raised to decry. An international community, which in many ways, supersedes ethnicity, geographical boundaries and religions - assisted by technology which ties unknown people together in ways which were never foreseen.

I don't know where I was going with this piece. But I figure since I didn't know know where I was headed when I started, I might as well end with this little story.

When John and I were in Hawaii for our honeymoon, we had a conversation with another couple at our hotel pool at a resort on the Big Island. The couple had just been to Oahu and had gone to visit Pearl Harbor. I won't even forget one of the things he said to us.

"It was crazy being there. Very emotional and powerful. But it also made me angry," the man said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because of all the Japanese people there. It made me want to turn around and say to them - you DID this. Why are you here?"

I was flummoxed. Not because on some level I couldn't understand perhaps some of this man's instinctual sentiment. But at his association that generations later - the people of Japanese origin standing next to him HAD DONE THIS.

As an American, I will tell you the following:

I didn't bomb Hiroshima. Or Nagasaki.
I didn't put a single Japanese American into an interment camp.
I never declined refuge to a Jewish person seeking amnesty in the United States during WWII who may later have died in the horrors of those godforsaken camps.

I NEVER did ANY of those things.

But as an American, I accept those facts as part of my history. Just as I embrace the parts of it that make me proud - I accept the blemishes which are my birthright as well.

When I think of the people who have been devastated in Japan - I do not see myself as an American offering my prayers to a country which is disconnected from me. We are all connected and interwoven in ways that ignorance can do little to compromise.

For now, I think I will find my faith in the humanity that I have to believe outweighs the ignorance.



Karls said...

Right on sister!

The one thing that makes me embarrassed to be Australian is the 'I didn't do it' mentality of other 'white Australians' towards Indigineous Australians. Claiming other cultures are taking over this country... Ummm, hello? How did we get here in the first place.

Seems it's global. Shame, really!

Stepping On Cheerios said...

Wonderful post:) I couldn't agree more.

webb said...

Good post. I fear that was the US commemorates (I cannot bring myself to use the word "celebrates") the 150th anniversary of the Civil War we will see way too often that old ideas and old feelings are not buried at all, but very close to the surface - just waiting to pop out. I think it will take great strength to get thru these next four years without old issues becoming new issues and dividing us even more.

Namaste, Sister

PS: Been missing you!

grace kay said...

this is a deep and honest post, kiran. thanks for putting it out there, i believe hate and prejudice is one and the same, regardless of who it's directed against. if you think about it, you can come up with a reason to hate one each and every race, religion and culture on earth today. then you can move on to the rich, the educated, the divorced, the gays, etc's all hate, and it's sad how far it can go.

Sara said...

I feel like it's really exhausting to hold a grudge against people I've never met, for things that were not their doing and were not done to me or anyone I know.

I reserve that kind of anger and hatred for more deserving things, like pollution and mayonnaise.

Phoenix said...

Hi Kiran, I occasionally read your blog posts because they often make me laugh out loud and always make me think. I particularly enjoyed this post. You are a talented and entertaining writer. Please keep at it! All the Best, Wendy

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