Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Pains That Are Withheld For Me

When I was a young child, my parents would not allow me to watch the evening news (I saw it sometimes at my grandparents' house, or other places, though, and I listened). At the time, the half-hour with Walter Cronkite was full of images of the Vietnam War - dead bodies, guns, violence.

The things that we used to protect children from.

My concept of war was and always has been somewhat wrong-headed. For one thing, I believe all war is unnecessary and negation is the best way to remedy whatever is wrong. Fighting over land, water, food, ideas - has always seemed a waste of resources. What, I always think, if people who make things go boom would put those thought processes into better use? What if we took the money people are fighting over and did good with it? What if we all shared? Don't they teach us to share in play school?

So in spite of the fact that my father is a rabid Republican as well as a veteran, and my grandfather was a veteran, I don't believe in fighting. I always think, what if nobody volunteered for the shooting? If they all laid down their guns and went home? It can be done, you know.

We just don't do it.

So now I live in this world above the darkness, the one most of us dwell in - or at least, most of us who would be reading this blog. We live in a world where there is ample food, water, clothing. We work hard, sure. We play hard. Maybe we have discussions that could be called arguments over different ideas about ways to run the country.

And it has turned into pain, pain we don't see because it is hidden.

I don't pick up a gun and fight for my grapes or my bread. However, fighting has somehow, someway, contributed to the fact that I can buy those things at my local market. When I go to the market, I am subsidizing things I don't even know about. War money for something. If I traced the pennies back from me to Kroger to their seller to their seller and so on and so forth, eventually it is all blood money, paid for with war, and the blood of someone's son or daughter.

But we don't see that because, like my parents' efforts to keep the images of the Vietnam War from me, media and government work together to keep the idea of democracy and freedom burning in the hearts of those who are slipping from this world above darkness into a more dimly lit area - the one we are all going to end up in as the free market takes more and more and leaves the rest of us with less and less. The free market, you see, is like Pac Man. It eats and eats but it doesn't give anything back to those it eats. Only one person ends up with the high score at the end of the game.

It is easy - oh so easy - to simply turn blind eyes to all that is going on. To not see that the emperor has no clothes. That morality tale has so many lessons for today that it is almost stomach-turning. How easy it is for three little tailors to proclaim they have created the most royal and best clothing, and how quickly everyone agrees, ignoring what their eyes actually see.

Blindness and lack of thought are apparently infectious. My failing eyes look around and see swaths of people covered with clothes but I know in my heart that what lies beneath is unwell. How quickly a suit and tie can turn into something it is not.

We do not see images of war anymore. We don't even see the caskets of returning soldiers. We hear body counts. Even when our journalists were "embedded" with soldiers during the early days of the Iraq war, the footage was manipulated, gauged to ease our minds that we weren't actually shedding blood, just knocking down a few buildings.

War like a video game, that's what we saw. Only it wasn't a game and isn't a game, and people died and are still dying. We don't even hear commentary anymore about the United States' ongoing wars in faraway lands.

We're not even sure who we're fighting. We just fight.

These days our images of war come from mass shootings in churches, theaters, and concerts. Our war has moved from the jungles of faraway lands to right next door, and we close our eyes to it as if to there is nothing to see.

Even that becomes commonplace, we see so much of it. From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Las Vegas, the death tolls climb and all we do is send "thoughts and prayers" and move on to the next item, purchasing our blood-money bread at Walmart because most of us can't afford the higher end stores anymore.

There is a lot going on in society, and many ways to look at things. It is easy to cherry pick facts, like cherry-picking Biblical references to assume a moral ineptitude simply because you can. It is easier now to ignore those who disagree with you, to turn them into "other" and pretend they don't exist - or that they are your enemy.

Someone said to me recently there were two Americas. But there are not just two Americas. There are multitudes of Americas. Not even each state exits in cohesion; they all have cities and rural areas fighting against one another, upper classes and lower classes, rich and poor, working and non-working, abled and disabled, black and white, blue eyes and green eyes. America is 320 million parts now, working like a badly put-together cog clock, with edges lost and others protruding, and nothing telling the actual time though nobody dares admit it.

We stand at the edge of a precipice, but then, we always have. The Doomsday clock moves forward by nanoseconds, but honestly, at any time, the dirt could give away.

What will we see then, I wonder? Sheer cliff? A splash of salty ocean water? A mushroom cloud?

In the end, does it matter?

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