Sunday, June 26, 2011


A famous episode of M*A*S*H has a young pilot talking about how wonderful the war is for him.  Roughly, as I remember it, he says,  "I fly around 45,000 feet, and it's so beautiful and peaceful up there; I drop my payload and head back to Japan, and my wife is there.  It's really great."  When Hawkeye gets him into the 4077's ER to help as an orderly, and he sees the destruction of human life (especially to a child) that bombs produce, he is deeply shaken.  And Hawkeye tells him (again, I am quoting roughly, from memory), "Look, you're a decent person; too decent to believe there's ever any such thing as a 'clean war.'"

This is a lesson we need to be reminded of, as human beings on this planet:  it is perilously easy for me to ignore nameless and faceless persons, to dismiss them by making them anonymous parts of a larger group that can be dismissed, or turning them into objects instead of brothers or sisters.  If I regard someone as "the enemy" or "a drunk" or "a gypsie" (especially in Rome) or "an illegal alien," then I am fully justified (in my mind) in ignoring or despising that person. 

Sometimes the kind of distancing we place between ourselves and others is inevitable (perhaps even necessary):  can I possibly encounter every single victim of, for example, the earthquake and tsumani in Japan, or the tornadoes in Alabama, or the flooding in North Dakota, and have true empathy with each one?  No, I cannot.  And so because of the problem of either being emotionally overwhelmed by the tragedy or the impossibility of the numbers involved, I detach.  I can turn the page of the newspaper or do another search on my computer and find something more pleasant, less problematic. 

But perhaps I can encounter one person and have that relationship change my view of the grouping he or she is supposedly a member of.  This can happen, as the story link below suggests.  When it does, there is a break-through that can lead from hatred to regard, and even (perhaps) to reconciliation and peace...

It is very easy to hate and kill "the enemy."  It is much, much harder to hate or kill "Dan" or "Mohammed" once you have met him as a person.  As the motto of our Mobile Christian-Jewish Dialogue puts it, "Hands that reach will touch."

1 comment:

  1. A reversal of roles can be an unexpected adjustment. This depends on the adaptability of this human. Let's take a look at the quality of the life adjustment. For instance, a perennial caregiver loses the capability to plan a day's proceedings. This can result from an unexpected illness or accident. The loss of independence can last a few weeks or several months, or longer. What emotions are elicited! No more self-planned activities or surroundings. A severe cutback of physical movements is experienced.
    To regain a functioning body requires medical attention and therapeutic exercising. All movements totally relying on a less resilient body which tires too easily.
    Time for the "Great Resusitator" to work His miracle. But as prayers invoke a plea for rapid healing, unfortunately, this prayer works at His pace. He has other plans for this seeker. These plans involve the incumbent attitudes which have been dormant and now lash out with feelings of frustration and negativism. The "Great Resusitator" wants a conversion to acceptance of His will. And, therein, the struggle continues. And another aspect of empathy for the sufferings of humans becomes a goal.