By intention I live a tranquil, sheltered life. I picked up the newspaper today and read about the new Degas/Cassatt exhibit opening at the National Gallery of Art. Wow, I think, I have to see that—it might be enough to make me go the few miles into the city. Maybe I’ll even be wild and crazy and take the Metro into town. I was eager to read the Weekend section of the paper for reviews of local farmers markets to learn where I could go to find the freshest and most exciting delicacies of the season.
But it was impossible to miss the photo on the front page of today’s newspaper—a young Burmese mother holding her starving infant. I wanted to look away, to fold the paper inside out so I never had to be reminded that such an image exists and that it dare to put a dagger into my peaceful life. Tears welled up in my eyes. How could anyone with a heart look at that image and feel nothing?
The article with the photo described the situation in a refugee camp in Burma. Muslim refugees are being starved, virtually ignored by their government, barred from assistance by foreign relief agencies, and bullied by extremist Buddhists. Yes, apparently there are extremist Buddhists in Burma. Something I never imagined could exist. Isn’t that the complete antithesis of Buddhism? What people do in the name of religion never ceases to amaze me. But this one has risen to the top of my list of incomprehensible things about alleged people of faith.
My quotidian concerns include where I can find perfect raspberries this week. I fret about my technique for making coffee. I get angry when Whole Foods runs out of Power Muffins. Admittedly I am a self-indulgent middle class American woman who never had to worry about her babies getting enough food or health care. I hate the stereotype and there’s something I hate about myself for being so comfortable in it, for feeling that I deserve these things.
When I saw the photo I cried for the woman’s heartbreak. I cried for a world that never ceases to be cruel and unfair. I cried for myself, for all the times I have looked away from these photos. And I feel powerless in a world gone wrong, trapped in a humanity besieged by evil and pain. If I dare look at it.
Can you give me some solace, O Lord? Can you give me some hope in this troubled world?
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Photo credit: Andre Malerba, Getty Images