Monday, January 18, 2010

A rare moment

One of the ironies of my life is that I am a former reporter who avoids watching the news. When horrific things happen, I avoid turning on the news and I skip over newspaper articles.

It's not that I don't care. I just don't want to know. I already know something awful happened. My soul aches when I read about or watch people suffering or dying. It haunts me and my sleep. I feel helpless and guilty for my warm home and refrigerator stocked with food and silly problems that, for these people on the news, would be nothing.

With the recent earthquakes in Haiti, I've been avoiding the news like crazy. I know it's terrible, what's happened there. No one can avoid hearing or reading about the tens of thousands of people who have died or the bodies piled in the streets or the thousands of injured people who need medical attention but are forced to wait, outdoors, for some relief from foreign aid.

Last night, I accidentally watched about 120 seconds of the news program "60 Minutes." A doctor with hard eyes was showing a reporter a sea of bloodied, bloating, dead bodies. Thousands. Lying, sprawled in the dirt, legs and arms spread. A tractor was shoveling the bodies into a trailer, preparing to cart them off to a mass grave. There is little choice right now. The bodies are so numerous and rotting in the open, something must be done immediately. Individual graves are a luxury that cannot be afforded right now.

It was right over the line that American news programs usually will not cross. Dead, bloody bodies. No effort to shield viewers from seeing the faces of the dead.

I wept. The crushing horror would be unimaginable if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, protected as I was on my sofa, thousands of miles away. It hearkens back to black and white images of the mountains of dead in the Holocaust, except these people are black, these images are in color, this time is now, and the colorful clothing of the dead is torn and stained with their blood. I felt thankful I was not there, among the dead or the living. I felt guilty.

The program showed a medical team improvising -- using a hacksaw to amputate a small boy's leg. Again, no effort to shield viewers from the gruesome reality of what was happening. Rather, the camera went closer. A doctor sawed. The leg detached. It was placed on a table. The stump lay there, exposed. I was shocked.

Hubs and I agreed to stop watching.

I asked him if we should make a donation. He agreed that I would donate whatever I felt was appropriate. Well, appropriate is relative. We have so much compared to people left homeless, injured, perhaps with their families killed. I donated an amount that, for us, is generous, considering our history of not donating.

I thought it was appropriate to acknowledge the rock in my stomach and the sickening images burned into my brain today. I don't feel better having donated. I just think I have done what I could, and should. I believe many people feel the same.

If you've been thinking of donating, may I prod you in the direction of giving an amount that you are comfortable with? These people are experiencing a level of misery that I hope you and I will never be forced to endure.

Tomorrow I'll be back with my standard light-hearted fare...

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