Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 25: Bearskin Coats, Human Disasters, Turning a Blind Eye

A motion-picture camera was set up at the border--to record the fabulous victory.  Two civilians in bearskin coats were leaning on the camera when Billy and Weary came by.  They had run out of film hours ago.

One of them singled out Billy's face for a moment, then focused at infinity again.  There was a tiny plume of smoke at infinity.  There was a battle there.  People were dying there.  So it goes.  

And the sun went down, and Billy found himself bobbing in place in a railroad yard.  There were rows and rows of boxcars waiting.  They had brought reserves to the font.  Now they were going to take prisoners into Germany's interior.

Flashlight beams danced crazily.

The scene Vonnegut describes certainly calls to mind images of the Holocaust.  A railroad yard.  Boxcars waiting to be loaded with people.  A plume of smoke in the sky.  These details are loaded with meaning.  Billy and Roland are about to be loaded onto one of these trains.

The world hasn't learned its lesson from the Holocaust.  There have been genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia.  And, as before, people looked in the other direction.  It's so easy simply to ignore, rather than take notice.  Because to take notice means that you have to take action. 

Right now, there seems to be a whole lot of people willing to ignore, and it's a little frightening.  There are human disasters taking place in Syria, and yet the citizens of this planet are unwilling to step up and do something about it.  Instead of compassion and charity, refugees are met with suspicion and hatred.  I live in a country where that is happening.  Over seventy years ago, the United States turned away Jewish refugees from Germany.  History seems to be repeating itself.

Hopefully, the tide is going to turn.  I find the tidal wave of nationalism that seems to be sweeping across the world more than a little alarming.  My sister has Down Syndrome.  When she was young, my mother had to fight over and over simply to get her into a classroom, provide her with an education.  The comment she frequently got from school teachers, administrators, and other parents was, "We have to take care of our kids before we take care of yours." 

There is not "our" and "yours" in society.  Nobody is isolated.  We need to take care of each other.  Turning a blind eye on a person in need is not a tenet of any world religion.

Saint Marty is thankful today for the compassionate, loving people in his life.

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