Remembering The People We Tend To Forget

In every war movie there is a death scene. A character has their head blown off, a second is traumatized to see it and wants to stay with them. A third person inevitably grabs the second and says, "Let's go! Don't look at them! We've got to leave!"

There is something about death, like depression, that sucks you in and grabs hold of you. Like a zombie on 'The Walking Dead,' it bites you and turns you into one of them. Last night, the leader gives his son a massive gun and tells him: Kill, run, or die.

When Sodom is destroyed in the Bible Lot's wife is told the same thing. G-d will save you but you have to run straightforwardly - do not turn around. She doesn't listen, turns back to look, and is immediately struck dead, "a pillar of salt."

The tendency to run from people in trouble is not only selfish. It is a primitive act of survival. We do not want to be one of them.
  • We do not want to know about the Philippines typhoon - because if we think about it, the waves could wash over our homes. 
  • We do not want to look at the homeless guy with a "Feed Me" sign standing at the intersection, because we might find our paychecks similarly taken away. 
  • We see images of veterans with metal arms or legs, distorted faces, and we cringe inside. They stood between us and an enemy, and if not for them that bullet would most assuredly have hit us and left us disabled or paralyzed.
There is a larger social impulse that recognizes our primitive fears and selfish tendencies, and corrects for them in a very minor way with days of remembrance.
  • Today, November 11, is Veteran's Day, when we come together to thank the people who give their lives and sacrifice their safety every day so that we can be safe.
  • On Friday, November 9, we also commemorated Kristallnacht, the night 75 years ago when Nazis went on a horrific attacking spree against the Jews in Germany, killing, burning, destroying, and generally terrorizing the people on a night that is remembered as the start of the Holocaust.
  • On Friday, November 22, we remember the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a leader who inspired an entire generation of people, their children and their children's children to believe it was actually possible to do what is right and not just what is convenient, expedient or safe.
It is understandable that people want to run from other people's misfortune. It makes us afraid of our own coming day of reckoning. And dwelling on death and destruction is not only dangerous - it can actually be toxic to ourselves and those we love by spreading misery further and further.

But all of that is also an excuse. We owe veterans and others who have sacrificed for us a true debt that involves real action. Thanking them, even superficially, is a good start. Supporting them financially and emotionally is better.

A society is judged by how it cares for those who have nothing in them to give back.  But it is judged even more harshly by how it cares for those who gave everything so that we could survive ourselves.

* All opinions my own.

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