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The courage to pay attention
Q: How are you making sense of the cruelty in our world today?
We were going to share a different post today. It was about surrendering and then I came across a photo on instagram last night that was deeply disturbing. It was a photo of a child in Ukraine. I realized that I had stopped following the news in the last two weeks, somehow becoming sensitized to what was happening in the world. I saw this post below and it brought everything back.
I looked at the girl in the photo, it reminded me of mine. I felt for a moment the fear of what this mother was feeling and the words below came tumbling out.
I saw a photo of a child today.
Rather I saw a photo of a child's back.
It looked familiar, like my child's back.
On the body of this girl, letters and numbers.
Letters spelling out the names of family contacts,
written by mothers who might be dead tomorrow.
How are we living in a world where this is okay?
What happened to us?
How did we get so lost?
So filled with greed and hate
What makes humanity inflict such pain and terror
on children, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers
I saw a photo today, of a child
A child that may be an orphan already,
A child that may be dead already,
A child that has most certainly lost her childhood.
Where are the caretakers of our world?
Please come forward, Please stand up
Help heal humans that can cause this kind of pain
Help stop the pain that these parents are living with
I saw a photo today and I felt the fear in my heart
for the mother who wrote those words,
for that sweet child who is
as vulnerable and innocent as my little girl
I saw a photo today and it made me want to pray.
Let's stop this now.
Putin, Put him out.
“As the days have turned into weeks, the carnage on our screens continues to intensify. It is so unsettling (in a world where so much of the news is perilous) that we may feel tempted to look away. We risk becoming inured to the death and suffering. It is horror on repeat. But we cannot afford to hide from the full force of the truth. We cannot accept this as fate beyond our control.
There is a fight for the future of this world between democracy and autocracy. It takes many shapes and is playing out on many stages — including here in the U.S. What the Ukrainians have demonstrated is that we must engage in this battle, in any way we can. These are the times in which we live. We have no choice in that matter. But for all the heartbreak, we should also realize that a better world can emerge.”
- Dan Rather’s post “Unspeakable Horror”
After writing that poem and reading Dan Rather’s post, I messaged Mitali at 2 am saying how can we write about surrendering, look at what’s happening to these families. I woke up to a message from her - not only did she agree, she had written something in response.
On a recent weekend discussion with friends, the topic of courage came up. We had shared some quotes on the topic and these were some of the questions that surfaced.
What is courage? Is courage about saying “yes” or saying “no”? How do you show courage in the face of fear? doubt? When have you shown courage in your actions? In your thoughts? Is courage a solo action or does it require the support of others? What have been the consequences of courage or the lack of it?
During the discussion someone brought up Ukraine. About the immense courage shown by individuals in this country willing to stand up and face a powerful force. To not be intimidated by the evil heading their way and to stay and defend their homes.
“Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?’
'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
These days we have the news at our fingertips. My Google News app starts with a headline on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia but forty days in I don't feel like this news is occupying enough of our headspace. My Insta feed is filled with photos from my friends' spring break travels. In today’s day and age of abundant information have we become too numb to the atrocities being committed around the world? Are we even discussing the address by the Ukrainian President to the United Nations Security Council this week describing the atrocities committed by the Russians?
“Fear binds people together. And fear disperses them. Courage inspires communities: the courage of an example — for courage is as contagious as fear. But courage, certain kinds of courage, can also isolate the brave.”
― Susan Sontag
Was it better to be uninformed eighty years ago when we relied on journalists to send dispatches from battlefields? Even then the world rallied to take action against an evil dictator. Today with access to real time information, citizen journalism we are able to get a more raw unfiltered view of what is happening on the ground. Shouldn't we be more enraged with what we are seeing and reading? Or have we become distrusting of all this information, not able to distinguish fact from fiction, not sure who to believe? Information disinformation - I admit to not knowing what to believe because it just seems so impossible that we are here eighty years and three generations after World War II and once again are seeing a tyrant decide to do what he wants in the name of beliefs and propaganda that he has fed his citizens.
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
― Mark Twain