When I was in Shamwana, I would go to bed on Saturday night and feel excitement that there were just a few hours left before I could get up and write. I was so bubbling over with stories, my only thought was how to fit them all in. I worried I’d have to give up the computer before they all came out my fingertips.
Now, I often fall asleep wondering what I should write about. There is no law saying I need to keep this up every Sunday, but I’m compelled to. Sometimes, on say Tuesday, something will happen, and I’ll think, “This is a great story,” or it will trigger thoughts about my experience in Congo and I’ll consider writing about it. I could certainly write on Tuesdays, but something stops me. I have this little obsession about keeping the Sunday thing sacred. Then I stress about it when my Sunday is full and I’m not sure when I’ll fit in time to write. It’s a game I play with myself.
I’m in Kansas with Kathy. We’ve been on a road trip that took us through a few states since we left Tennessee. We talked and laughed a lot along the way, just as we expected. We arrived to visit dear friends of hers, we’ve made new friends, learned some history about our country, certainly learned some geography, shared stories and taught about Congo, MSF, and what it means to us in the states. We’ve had political discussions, listened to others’ points of view, and mourned for parents who lost their children in yet another violent attack on our schools. And yesterday, learned with sinking hearts, about the MSF Afghani hospital being bombed by our own military.
When I tell the story about Shamwana, I want to give readers and audiences the sense that they know the people as I did. When we hear about those at war in mainstream media, it tends to be in a way that shocks us (as it should) but to a point where we only see the victims as statistics and not humans. We seldom learn their stories. The media can’t do this, maybe because there are too many of them, or maybe it’s not shocking enough to tell stories about butchers and bakers and candlestick makers. But, if we try, we can learn the stories of the victims who are killed by gun violence. I’m sure it’s possible. But it is getting to the point where that would be a full time job, and how many of us take the time to do it?
I’ve read a lot about World War II, and often wonder how life went on in countries where there was active fighting. How could you go to church? How could you go to the market, or anywhere? But people did. Well, I’m starting to feel like we are at war here in our own country, and we still have dinner, go to church, drive our cars on road trips or to the mall or to the ball game. It seems the violence, no matter how much we hate it, goes on and on. And we live with it. We might talk about feeling scared sending our kids to school. We might have new regulations that give us a sense of better security, but, like taking off our shoes at the airport, it doesn’t change violent behavior. And we still send our kids to school.
The statistics are nauseating. Our military makes mistakes and bombs innocent people (and I don’t care what hospital it was; it was a fucking hospital) and there is shock and sadness, and then it happens again. We elect the same legislators over and over who vote to keep our schools unsafe, our reputation around the world disgraceful, and our poor poor. They vote to keep women’s rights and services substandard. And somehow they stay in power.
Money, money, money. I fear a real revolution is brewing. Is it possible to have it be a peaceful one? How big can the rift grow between the haves and the have-nots before there is a complete disintegration of our society? How many kids have to die? There is a breaking point somewhere. I thought that yesterday when I described what tipped the balance into civil war in Congo. Factors have to line up. Rebel forces were brewing for years as the disparity grew between the haves and the have-nots. Hmm, history shows us that happened a few other times in the world, yet, we don’t learn. The greed and power take over and common sense is lost. We have mad men in our congress. There’s that too.
When I tell the story of Shamwana, many in the audience ask me what they can do to help. Many want to feel that they can offer something to better the world. It’s definitely a recurring theme when they learn the stories of the people, not just the country. But I don’t hear people asking that same question when we discuss what is happening in our own country. Why is this? Why do we feel so powerless to change things here? We can campaign for reasonable legislators, we can buy locally, we can practice open minds and hearts, but still the madness continues and we feel like our actions don’t matter. How many have to die before we wake up? I understand the ripple effect. I know that one small action can make a difference. I preach that all the time. But it’s hard to keep the spirit up when the country we call home shows this ugly face to the world.
Brainstorm. What can we do?