Friday, August 18, 2017

Dangerous Pastime

I've been thinking.  And, we all know that thinking is a dangerous pastime.

**** Warning: Difficult Content Follows ****

A combination of recent events led me to consider what some of the reasons might be for why I have reacted the way I have to them.  I must warn anyone who is reading this post that it is NOT happy.  There will be a few photos that are disturbing.  And, if they do not disturb you, then I am worried for you because they represent truly awful situations and terrible suffering.  I am sharing these photos as a reminder to myself and anyone else who might read them why should work harder to understand each other and find ways to live together respectfully - regardless of what else we might hold as our basic beliefs.

The Specter of the Mushroom Cloud

I grew up at a time when there were still drills in schools in case there were a nuclear attack.  It was simply a part of the way things were.  Perhaps, I thought about such things a bit more than other kids my age might have.  My mother can tell you that I was probably a bit more sensitive to many things than most children.  To make matters worse, I had (and still have) an excellent imagination.  So, I could certainly extrapolate beyond what was being observed to something far better or... much worse.  I remember that my family watched the TV mini-series Roots and Holocaust.  These were merely dramatic interpretations of the actual events - and I had to leave more than once because I couldn't stand some of the worst situations and portrayals. 

I also had an attraction to learning and to reading about historical events.  I enjoyed going to the public library and reading/browsing through books while I was there.  I read a fair amount of fiction, but I also read a good deal of historical texts.  Since I was curious about why there was a big deal about atomic/nuclear weapons, I did a little poking around.

And, I found a book that I haven't been able (and maybe unwilling) to relocate.  It showed a number of photographs and included descriptions of the events at the end of World War II that resulted in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The photographs and first person accounts made a deep impression on me.

I could imagine my home town.  Looking like this.  I might have been too young to fully appreciate that many, many people have seen and experienced scenes like this over time.  There are people experiencing things like this RIGHT NOW.  But, I made the first step of bringing home to myself by realizing that THIS COULD BE ME.

Or perhaps, this could be me.

And, as I viewed the pictures - I made myself keep looking.  I wanted to quit.  I wanted to go find a nice piece of fantasy fiction and immerse myself into something that wasn't real. 

I started to realize that this could be my sister.  Or my friend.  And then I realized it didn't matter if it was someone I knew.  It was horrible.  And it wasn't right.  And it shouldn't be allowed to happen again.

So, I wonder why it was that I have responded so badly to the poorly considered and ridiculous posturing between North Korea and the United States regarding nuclear weapons?

Divisive Wounds that Still Bleed

I have always had some fascination with US history from the 1860's.  Of course, children (and perhaps many other people) who have never experienced war or who have only read glorified accounts of it will be drawn to things like the Civil War.  From a historian's perspective, periods of unrest provide fascinating looks into how the world works, how people respond in adversity and we can get insight into how innovation and change come about as a result of these sorts of events.

But, when you are ten years old and you come across a book with pictures of the Civil War and they include pictures like this one:

Your attitude tends to change a little bit.  Again, I suspect many kids fail to have the experience or imagination to fully appreciate what is being seen here.  In fact, I am pretty sure I didn't fully understand either.  But, I still remembered these photos and when I did gain experience and information to fill in the blanks, it helped me to gain perspective that I think is important.

It is no surprise that the average age of soldier's in the US Civil War conflict was around 25 years of age.  There are multiple accounts of some as young as 14 finding ways into the ranks.  That may sound old to a ten year-old.  But, it doesn't take long for that attitude to change as a person begins to realize that those bodies could have been me... or someone like me.  In short, someone who had likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams...  It didn't matter what these people looked like.  It didn't matter what country they came from or what their religion was or the color of their skin or... 

Then, we have events in Charlottesville where a group of people essentially went there looking for trouble and went through the process of making trouble.  The claim by some was that they wanted to preserve their heritage (among other things).  I have a suggestion.  Let's exchange some of these glorified statues of officers all dressed up and looking nice with statues of bloated bodies in a field or ditch.  After all, we don't want to change history do we?

Don't Let The Kids See That!

I still remember seeing some TV footage of the Vietnam War when I was quite young.  But, I more vividly remember my Mom saying that, "the kids shouldn't be seeing that."  And, the TV was normally switched off fairly quickly.

My parents are some of the best people I know in the world.  They did a fine job helping me and my siblings become the people we are today.  I'd like to think that we've all turned out reasonably well.  I don't disagree with their paying attention to what we saw and limiting what we were viewing.  However, I did see some of these things in all of their hideous, but truthful, portrayals.  And, I do not regret seeing them.  I only regret that events occurred that led to these pictures being possible.

The difference here is that it motivates me to put a non-farm, non-humor post on this blog because it is important to me... it is important to all of us... that we find ways to remove photo opportunities like this one:
I did not see this photo until I was in high school.  The photo is from the Vietnam war and is one of those iconic images that appears whenever anyone does anything on that particular event. 

I wanted to look away.

I wouldn't look away.

I will not look away.

And I will do what I can to make things better.  I may fail.  I may not make the best choices.  But, I will try.

1 comment:

Thank you for your input! We appreciate hearing what you have to say.