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Beyond Our Sight

by MISSY BEATTIE

As I write, Thanksgiving is several days away.  Thanksgiving.  I stare at the letters, separating the word.  Thanks giving and giving thanks.  I feel grateful for my family, our togetherness, and I am completely detached from the mythos I was taught years ago about the significance of this Thursday in November.

How can anyone celebrate stuffing of the bird, the stuffing of faces, when children are starving, dying?  When the U.S. is involved in at least six wars?  When this country manufactures weapons of cataclysmic destruction, exploding the lives of families like mine, people who gather for birthdays, weddings, funerals, joy, sorrow, life?

But families also unlike mine, because they’re impoverished and living in constant fear.

And beyond our sight.

Does out of sight make right?

I’ve written many articles in which I’ve mentioned apathy.  Trying to defend it to make it acceptable, saying that so many people come home from work, if they have a job, and grab the remote to watch America’s next best something because they’re weary and stressed.

But my friend disputed this.  He told me no, no, no.  Actually, he’s much more articulate than this, unequivocal in stating that people know. They know—the atrocity of war, the slaughter.  Glaringly aware of their own participation in global murder, they aren’t apathetic.  Instead, they lack empathy.  They express their pro-peace position but support a system whose foundation rests in blood. That those who call themselves “progressives” and have extra in their bank accounts donate to organizations that provide hot meals for the hungry, a place to sleep, clothing.  Eagerly they enter an amount on a check and sign, inking their names on checks to excuse themselves from any more responsibility, any greater feeling, consideration, accountability.  He compared this to paying for maid service to clean up one’s mess.  More and more, I’m influenced by the depth of his insight and by his generosity in caring for me as a human being who wants to do no harm but often fails.  Miserably.

Recently, my friend reminded me of Rachel Corrie’s sacrifice.  He challenged me, again.

I think about the carnage in Gaza, the maimed and incinerated.  United States officials support Israel and condemn Gaza, this blockaded area with 1.6 million inhabitants, dispossessed and living in despair.  Then I imagine Corrie, in Gaza, standing tall in her convictions, placing herself between a combat engineered bulldozer and a house about to be demolished, her actions a testimony to empathy, her heart filled with compassion—this beautiful heart broken with finality by a blade of hatred.

I look at my white privilege and the pathetic attempts I’ve made to assuage my conscience.  I know.  I know clearly that parents are wailing in agony, carrying their dead children, because this country, my country, profits from the guillotining of humanity and the gutting of justice.

But Gaza, well, it’s far away, distant, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and not seen through the windshield or in the rearview as we motor along the road to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter, some chain of comestible command, to select a brined turkey, potatoes, green beans, ingredients for cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

But we know.  We just know and we hire someone, vote into office a “leader” to act on our behalf, decide in our stead, so we don’t have to do much else. Not even care  much. Probably, we could pay someone, an appointee, a czar, to handle care and then call it Thankscaring.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore—probably not for long.  Email: missybeat@gmail.com    

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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