Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why don't you cry for all of the hurting children of the world?

I was waiting for this response.  I was waiting for people to start pointing out that children are dying all the time, in despicable and unimaginable ways, all over the world.  I knew that, as soon as I publicly expressed feelings of grief over Newtown, smug people would show up with a belittling view of my feelings, calling me sheltered and American, suggesting that my reaction has been created by the media, that my feeling are invalid, because I don't feel the same amount of sadness for everyone who has ever suffered, in all of the world.

I left this response to a commenter on my most recent Huffington Post piece, and I wanted to share it here, as my official position on being a sheltered American, full of grief:

There are biological and sociological reasons why tragedy that is closer to us, in proximity and similarity of experience affects us more than death that is happening in places and situations more remote to us, whether it be acts of war in war torn countries, desperation in places of great poverty or in abusive households in our own cities... I am hardwired, simply by being human, to respond to the sudden massacre of American kindergartners more dramatically than those events that don't resemble me so closely.

We live with acts of monstrosity all the time, yes.  And it's imperative that we expand our world view of humanity. However, even with this shooting, as time goes by, effectively creating space between us and the incident, our grieving will lessen.  That's the way it works, when you're a human being. It's scientifically and sociologically naive to suggest that I could feel the same strength of feelings for all tragedies in the world. 

When my grandmother died no one said to me, "Grandmothers die all the time.  Why don't you cry every time an old lady dies?"  In twenty years, when people read about Newtown, they won't drop to their knees and cry, like we do now, even though they will be sheltered Americans, too.  Why?

This is close to me because of my perception of my circumstances, my reality.

If your goal is to perpetuate compassion for the suffering people of the world, you'd be better served by appreciating and honoring compassion, where ever you can find it.