A coworker let me borrow his copy of the July 2005 National Geographic this morning so I could read an article in there about the Mars rovers, an interest we share. I have a habit of thumbing through magazines from back to front because I often find the stuff in the back to be far more interesting than a lot of the fluff editors put in the front to pay their bills. Well, I got more than I bargained for this time.
The first shock I got was the photo of a Chechnyan girl by Heidi Bradner, Panos Pictures, that shows the girl's shrivelled legs and her her fake ones that allow her to walk. The child looks none too happy. In contrast to typical American media where we usually only see children with disabilities in ads for the YMCA or Special Olympics, smiling, succeeding, and being supported by their families, Ms. Bradner's photo was the first in the article that brought a local and international reality home: there are still children out there who are orphaned, disabled, unloved, and suffering. They are victims of other people's wars and government power struggles.
I was at work when I encountered the picture, and it was just too much to deal with at the time. I decided to thoroughly read the article later. I continued to flip pages toward the front of the magazine in search of the Mars rover article. Page 89, more orphans ... I can't deal ... page 86, more destruction ... I can't deal ... keep flipping ... page 84, more death ... I just can't deal! ... keep flipping ...
On pages 78 and 79 there's a funeral procession with mourners lining the streets, pall bearers in grief over the body in the small, lace-covered casket of a boy who looks JUST LIKE MY SON did at age four.
Why?! Screamed my head. Why must there be conflict? Why must there be war? Why must governments solve their problems with pollutants and bombs and poisons? Why?
I came close to tears. That photo by Ivan Sekretarev, AP/Wide World Photos really did bring the issue in Chechnya home to me. That could have been my son. That could be my son if the policies of my country's government continue their current path. Why!?
Then I realized that in order to know why means I have to study their reasoning. To know why means I have to understand their ways of thinking. But, to really understand the why, I would have to be like them.
I don't want to be like them! I don't want to know their ways of thinking! I don't want to know why after all! No!
Is government a necessary evil? Does it have to be evil? Do we have to be preemptive? Do we have to have revenge? Do children have to continue to die because we have to? We have to? Do we really have to?