I have trouble, as many of us do, reconciling the facts of our current events with my quotidian existence.
Houston, Texas, is still in recovery. Puerto Rico has a tenuous grasp on hope and restoration as such basic amenities as electricity, phone service and clean water are still extremely elusive. My own cousins are in San Juan, safe but stretched thinner every day. In Las Vegas, the biggest mass murder in modern American history has robbed more than 50 innocent civilians of their lives, hundreds of their health, and the general American public of our sense of security.
Personally, I’ve signed up to assist with disaster relief, educated myself on the ways in which individuals can best support communities that have experienced a natural disaster, and thought yet again about my stances on the government’s approach to gun control and mental health. But also, I’ve had a very average couple of weeks.
We celebrated our son’s 2nd birthday at the end of last month with a beautiful Saturday in the park with friends. God has blessed us with such a healthy, beautiful, happy son and there is no denying how lucky it feels to be parents to him and his sister. We’ve decorated the front of the house with spooky Halloween decor, fake spiderwebs and ghouls dangle off of tree branches and painted pumpkins guard the front door. We’ve gone to ballet class and art class. We’ve gone to work. We’ve played. We have had to juxtapose the wretched realities of our fellow humans in not too far off places with the privileged, blessed realities of our own lives.
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What is this double consciousness doing to us? Surely humans have long been able to appreciate that there can be trauma and tragedy occurring nearby, but more all the time humans are able to viscerally, quickly become inundated with videos, images, and content that reveals all manner of ills and grievances that resonate locally, regionally and globally. So when we digest such facts as a murderous spree in Vegas or a lack of distributed aid in the crippled Caribbean as easily as our morning coffee, do we become desensitized, jaded, overwhelmed, inspired? Do we count our blessings or decry the actions of others?
I have personally dubbed 2017 “The Year of the Psychiatrist” because with all that has been going on politically and elsewhere, I can only imagine that more and more of us are sitting on that comfy couch somewhere just to get our heads on straight. Jokes aside, what we ought to be doing is not going about our business as the world crumbles here and there around us. We ought not wait until our own foundation crumbles here at home. We ought to exercise our civic duty and participate in the democratic process. We ought to educate ourselves daily on how to be the most engaged and informed citizens possible. And we ought to focus on love — to find and observe it daily, and to generate it just as often. It is in the simplest sense our best hope for a better future.
Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent contractor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.