So there I was ecstatic my Ravens football team against all odds beat the Denver Broncos (weep Bronco fans) and you know riding that emotional high for what was setting up to be a good Sunday.
Quick look at the news, French warplanes in Mali, Syria, civil unrest in Belfast, celebrity pregnancies, and then I saw a weeping teenage refugee girl from Syria who said all she wanted to do was walk again and then she broke eye contact with the camera and said she could not talk, wiping away tears remembering no doubt the days before that fateful night when she had her leg cut off during bombings in Syria.
It wasn’t what she said as much as her eyes when she said it and how it was depicted. You could feel the pain and desperation in her expression and I just…. Honestly, I just broke down remembering numerous documentaries and gruesome accounts of what my country Sierra Leone went through. I remembered stories of a friend of mine who went to Gaza and the desperation she saw in the eyes of men and women in their twenties just like her who at that point could only live off of hope and even that was dwindling as the conflict in the Middle East rages on one way or the other. I skimmed through the frustrations of a fellow blogger who describes the forgotten war in Congo as the difference in value of human lives depending on where they are located. I remembered a similar occurring during a conference in Amsterdam as an exasperated individual complained about atrocities and violence in certain parts of the world receiving less human coverage than a pregnancy in the United Kingdom, the Oscar nominations, Kim Kardashian’s spousal situation and on and on he kept going.
It is outrageous that we express more human emotion in totally superficial news reports than in reports that should really matter and draw us more into actively making sure these gruesome conflicts stop.
I blame myself more than I blame you actually. I don’t watch all that celebrity stuff, I really don’t care but I have watched and laughed at the stupidity of Jersey Shore, the shamelessness of basketball wives shenanigans and any other pathetic attempt at fame, money and status (the era of reality shows). Never watched full episodes but I blame myself for having added it to my viewing repertoire and thus contributed to the personification of people I am totally not associated with nor do I feel that urge.
But there was her look, she told her name, her story and when she said she could not talk for a brief second, when she remembered how she used to play with her brother, I could see her torn soul, pain, anguish and glimmer of hope for better days. My contribution to this all is that I helped in making nonsense more personal than the tribulations of a suffering human being in terms of my interests and activities. I am guilty for having made irrelevant news relevant and of reducing the human character of real news.
Sure Syria receives coverage, the war in the Middle East receives coverage, but most conflicts don’t address the personal affliction suffered by the victims. Random images of poverty, hunger and death accompanied with numbers are different from putting a name of one single person and letting him or her explain not only with words but also with a certain demeanor what they are going through on a daily basis. When you reach that point when the interviewer and cameraman accord the interviewee the time and space usually allocated to general images, it makes a key difference. She spoke, written translation at the bottom of the screen and the cameraman zoomed into her face and there it was.
I am at a loss of words as to explain how but she became human and she became every forgotten conflict victim when she looked into the camera and said she could not talk and then avoided eye contact and tears came out all in a couple of seconds. Sure we have seen the commercials of charity organizations, the news depictions of refugees running away from war especially now that western countries are getting involved in various countries but that is exactly it. The media coverage got extensive with their involvement but the suffering of the people preceded their arrival and will continue long after they have left.
The news often follows a general pattern: A couple of people shooting, other people yelling in languages we don’t understand, interviews with leaders of protagonists seemingly far away from the sound of guns. Afterwards interviews with leaders of the international community, the US and Europe usually, occasionally China and Russia, then 2 seconds of bombing again and then we are off to the next segment which is usually something light to ease our temporary sense of pity. Usually after images like that the broadcaster introduces a lighter news item so we don’t have our dinner with the ugly stench of death, poverty and despair during our meals.
During my social activities, I often wonder about how confrontational I would like to be to get certain societal points across. Sometimes I am brought to such ends that I fight to keep in mind that despite the different barriers we have built between us we still are people, connected and the suffering of one is the suffering of us all. Idealistic? Tell me about it. Utopian? I sincerely hope not.
Too bad we have grown to express our human emotions more vividly when dealing with celebrities and their deeds or misfortunes as their PR agents fight ways for them to stay relevant on a daily basis.
Too bad we love the feel good stories so much so that we shun the daily afflictions of a significant percentage of the world population.
Too bad we are satisfied with donations to organizations so we can push away the idea to be actively involved or overly concerned without situations so far away from our doorsteps.
that girl and millions like her struggle every day to have a smile on their face, food on their plate, water in their cup, a safe place to sleep and a place in our conscience and we all say it is sad but we do not know them as much as we should. Obviously we do not feel their pain as much as they do but tragically we do not want to know them as much as we should as human beings.
Nooo at this point in time I am sure Lance Armstrong, Manti Teo, Kate, William cause more of a stir and an image than Aisha in a refugee camp at the Syrian border who will not be able to walk again at the tender age of 15. Aisha is a person you will have forgotten all about in the next 30 minutes and I blame myself more than I blame you for I was hit in the face with her story on a Sunday when I did not ask for it as I know I should have.
Her name was Aisha.