If The Same Thing Happened Here, We’d Lose Our Minds

The scene of this morning’s suicide bombing in Suiweda, Syria

This morning’s news seemed worse than usual.  Forest fires in Yosemite National Park are putting lives and vacations at risk.  While on the other side of the world, apocalyptic blazes are raging throughout northern Greece.  As of this morning, at least 80 people have died fleeing the Greek fires.  In Quetta, Pakistan 31 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a polling station.  It’s Election Day for the entire nation and over two dozen people lose their lives exercising their democratic prerogative.  Then reports came from the government held areas of Syria.  Over 200 people were murdered in multiple ISIS attributed suicide bombings in the city of Suiweda.

These events are horrific tragedies.  In isolation, each one is a defining moment, forever changing the lives and countries of the people involved.  Combined, these tragedies represent the ill defined nature of chaos dominant across the world.  Yet, unless you’re in Syria, Pakistan, or Greece (or listening to NPR’s Morning Edition’s second hour), no one seems to notice.

If any one of these events occurred in the United States; forest fires that kill 80 people, the destruction of a polling station on the first Tuesday in November leaving 30 dead, or a wave of suicide bombings, these would be the biggest stories in America since the September 11th attacks.  There would be non-stop, wall to wall coverage, press conferences, memorials, and tributes broadcast for weeks.  Yet, when it happens somewhere else, we could care less.

It’s not that we don’t care.  If natural disasters hit our hemisphere (or country), we’re quick to mobilize and respond to earthquakes, floods, and fires that impact adjacent time zones.  When summer vacations and second homes are threatened with destruction, America will stop at nothing to help.  We pat ourselves on the back each time this occurs an applaud our community spirit.  On the other hand, tragedies marked by an epic loss of life in parts of the world where it’s easier to send projectiles than prayers, don’t register in our collective psyche.  Though, if similar events were to occur on our election day or devastate an equal number of lives, by God the world better pray, support, and love us because we’re, you know, America.  We take names and remember those who don’t support us with their thoughts and prayers.  Yes, something is wrong with our national sense of narcissism and entitlement.  How can we expect the world to care about us when we know so little about the needs of the countries we’ve invaded, impoverished, and isolated?  We can’t but we do.

Yes, it’s easier to stay wrapped up in our blankets of fear and division.  Who cares if people die in Pakistan or Syria?  Isn’t our ambivalence toward Syrians and the Pakistanis just another means of supporting the troops and signaling our support for never ending war in the Middle East?  It’s ironic, the President and Tucker Carlson debated the hypothetical need for Americans to defend Montenegro but neither man thought to consider why anyone else should be sent to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria.

Shouldn’t we be more worried about the President’s next tweet and who the media says we should hate today?  If we care about Syrians and Pakistanis, from where in our souls will we mine our most precious resource:  righteous indignation?

We’re not moved to outpourings of grief, sympathy, or prayers for Greece, Pakistan or Syria because we’ve been conditioned not to care.  If events are not moving between the axis of Moscow’s meddling, Washington’s swamp, or Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs; we are told that empathy is treasonous.  We’ve signed on to Faustian bargain:  either care about America’s descent in to Fascist tyranny or be counted among the enemies of the republic.  Both sides of the political spectrum make versions of this same draconian argument.  One cannot care about the dead in Greece, Pakistan, or Syria (or anywhere else) and listen to Michael Cohen’s tapes.  This is the lie we’ve allowed ourselves to believe.  It’s a falsehood we tell ourselves.

In the third chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reminds us that everyone precious to God.  “Every ethnic group in heaven or on earth is recognized by him.  I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith.  As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together will all believers.”

God’s empathy is boundless.  God’s love is wider, longer, taller, and deeper than we can imagine.  It’s big enough to comfort those who lost family in Greece, Pakistan, and Syria.  Paul’s prayer is that we know and embrace this idea of God’s “big love”.  When Paul says, “every ethnic group” he means that God doesn’t have an isolationist foreign policy.  God weeps for the dead in Pakistan, Syria, and Greece.  God comforts the grieving, be they Orthodox Christian or Sunni Muslim.  God’s expansive love is something to be practiced and embodied.  Accepting God’s love is an act of faith.  God is meeting us in the world we call home.  Are we able to see our way to God?   Who knows who we might need to embrace?

Someone’s crying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s crying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s crying Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya

Someone’s praying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s praying Lord, kumbaya
Someone’s praying Lord, kumbaya
Oh Lord, kumbaya

Richard Lowell Bryant

 

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