Turning Away

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I would gladly read ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million words if it meant I’d never have to look at another picture of a dead child.

The U.N. estimates that sixteen million Syrians are in need of assistance both inside and outside Syria. I wish it was an isolated incident, but it’s not. Civil wars, genocide, hate crimes, school shootings, child abuse, animal abuse, environmental destruction, human trafficking, addictions, widespread illness, murders, oppression. Every day. All symptoms of the same disease.

And all beamed straight into your brain five times daily via the local news. The pictures and videos that are too graphic—too disturbing—to show on network television flash all over social media.

Why?

What purpose does it serve to strobe despair at the masses like some psychotic disco? For a certain small segment, it springs them into action. These are the first responders and humanitarians of the world. We could use more of them.

For others, likely the majority, it desensitizes them so that they turn the dial, tuning out the world’s keening cries for help. It’s just part of the state of the world. How sad, they think as they pour another cup of coffee before firing up their fuel-efficient late model car and driving themselves to their nine-to-five, all the while on their society-induced autopilot.

But what about the rest? The ones who can’t desensitize. The ones like me.  Frequently overwhelmed by the state of the world, I can rarely think about the ever-present poverty, violence, and apathy without being moved to nausea, or tears, or both. I long so intensely for a better world that I shake with it, unable to control my body as the rising tide of emotion threatens to drown me.

So the ones like me? We turn away. In the end, we do nothing. The visceral pain of wanting to fix everything, but being unable to, is beyond anything I can explain. I add my keening to all the rest, part of the cacophony of anguish that never quite separates into its individual notes.

What’s the solution then? We could engage in our armchair religion, uttering a five second prayer before flipping the channel to the imperial circus of professional sports. Or we could actually, really do something. But what? What could we accomplish in the physical realm?

I don’t know. All I know is the world needs us all if we’re going to cure this global disease. Don’t make us stop listening. Don’t make us turn away.

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