Friday, August 22, 2014

On the Unimaginable


I don't know.
There is no "why".
In my mind, there is only "now what do we do?"

So here's the "now what's" that I can suggest. And they are just the basics. The starting points. At which I will start and invite you to do the same.

We remember James Foley. As he appears here, full of life, in his element, taking calculated risks to bring to light the stories that are affecting so many. It's unimaginable that he would risk everything for a story that we would flippantly skip over so that we could catch up on the Simpsons or see who gets a rose in the never-ending saga that is the Bachelorette...and yet, I'm sure I'm guilty. Of seeing the images caught by his camera and wanting to move on to things much more pleasant...or entertaining to say the least. Guilty pleasure has a new and darker meaning to me now.  Let's be mindful of what we watch and hear. Choose these images over the ones ISIS released of hatred and beheading. This is James. A son, a brother and a photographer with stories to share. Loved and missed. Think of his family and remember him well.


And we pray for those who are being held hostage and are being threatened with the same fate, particularly, it would seem, Steven Sotloff, another freelance journalist who has been detained and threatened with execution since August 2013. Is it even possible that these men have suffered detention and the physical and psychological torture since 2012, as James had, without us even registering their plight? Indeed it was for me. I was ignorant to their suffering but it isn't without regret. 


And in Ferguson, Missouri, where the protests and unrest continue with few answers or transparency on either side of the situation. My heart goes out to a family who lost a son, whatever the reason, and again, my ignorance assails me. I know nothing of the prejudice that leads a nation of young black men to fear law enforcement. I know less of the pain that a family losing a son feels when it is minimized in the media and his name is slandered for the alleged crime of shoplifting that may or may not have led to his having been gunned down in the street. What I do know is that I feel compelled to figure it out and to stand with Ferguson, if only from a distance, and say that the truth must come forth and that America (or North America) needs to take a good strong stance on this type of racism and eliminate it so that law enforcement is above reproach and young men can move on to their futures without the threat of an abrupt end to their lives for little more than being the wrong colour in the middle of the street.  Let's remember Michael Brown's family, in the midst of the storm, grieving their son in a sea of accusations and uprising. Let's stand with them and say, "We want answers too." And let's listen to the voices of those in Ferguson who remember it as a town where people come looking for a safe community to raise their children, no matter the colour of their skin. 


And we need to continue to watch and learn and intervene financially or physically, wherever possible, to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Ebola virus that continues to decimate communities across western Africa. While the World Health Organization continues to issue warnings and watches about the continued spread and death toll, let's remember those who are on the front lines, fighting the virus at great personal risk - not only from the virus but from the myths and perceptions surrounding the spread of the disease. If you are going to become immune to the news of Ebola, please don't allow yourself to become numb to the staggering numbers of people dying and suffering from it. If you want to support those on the front lines, I would strongly suggest making a donation to MSF (Doctors without Borders) who are working in incredibly stressful situations with little respite. The containment and treatment of the disease are difficult enough but working in situations where the heat and the humidity are tiring, the hazard gear you have to wear is incredibly cumbersome and the nights of rest are few and far between with no end in sight? These are heroes of epic magnitude and yet, we may never know their names or hear their stories. What can we do to tell them we're with them, to encourage them? I'm not sure. I know that giving towards MSF will allow them the tools they need to do their jobs well and give them one less thing to worry about in a situation that is filled with worries. And let's remember too, there is hope, stories of it in the midst of the hardest days of exhaustion and death.

There's a million things out there that can overwhelm us with all that is wrong in the world. We need to start where we are and work on what we can. Humanity doesn't require us to fix one another's problems singlehandedly...it requires us to act with compassion and love, wherever we're at. 

That's where I'm starting. Ready? Go.



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