“Why don’t we do something?” my relation said, in a tone of anguish over the telephone.
Ukraine, of course. All news dwindles away in the face of war in Europe: missiles slamming into apartment buildings; desperate refugees picking their way across demolished bridges.
We wanted to forget COVID; but not like this.
You know a situation is really getting under people’s skin when your extended family starts calling to talk about it. Reaching out to me, I suppose, the same way you’d call a cousin who’s a plumber when you have a leaky faucet. I’m in the trade, this thinking-about-stuff business; maybe I can share the inside story.
I tipped back in my chair, put my feet on my desk. This would take a while.
“Well...” I began.
It’s human nature to want to insulate yourself from horrors. To exile them safely to the past — hard enough to contemplate cities being bombed in 1944, never mind to think about cities being shelled last Thursday.
We also like to segregate suffering, not only in time, but geographically, as far from ourselves as possible. The genocide in Myanmar furrowed some brows. But it was in the former Burma. Way off. Not so much video, and what photos was got, to be frank, were not of white folks. That part gets unsaid. But it’s true. Human beings have a proven track record of toughness when it comes to shrugging off the sufferings of anyone unlike themselves. Which is not that easy an option for our kind when forced to see a cute little blonde Ukrainian girl in a bomb shelter singing “Let it Go” from “Frozen” in a small, piping voice.
“It’s extra upsetting because it’s people like us carrying cell phones,” is what I actually said. My relative agreed: We’re all basically displaced Eastern Europeans. This is too close to home.
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