Friday, November 27, 2009

I need a thousand lifetimes because I know just enough to make me dangerous

There is so much out there! 

I'm planning a trip to Gdansk, in the north of Poland. This is where my mother grew up. The history of Gdansk is closely related to that of Hitler and his campaign of "hegemony."  You may have heard of the city called Danzig which is of course what Hitler called it once it fell to Germany after the Nazis invaded Poland.

This is subject matter which interests me.

Today we attended the Tollwood Winter festival here in Munich. It is held on the same grounds of the Oktoberfest - it's a wonderfully quaint outdoor holiday celebration with mulled wines and food tents and the like. A more serious photographic exhibit is being shown documenting atrocities of war around the world in the past decade. It is disturbing and depressing - among these powerful images were:
-An elderly woman in Chechnya carrying nothing but a framed photograph and a number of rolled rugs on her back against a backdrop of a blighted, abandoned and rubble filled war town town.
-An infant Rwandan child, crouched on the ground, partially covered by the body of his dead mother who may have been trying to protect him, his mouth open, wailing and crying - but he is in a sea of dead bodies, all laying in poses similar to his mothers', indicating perhaps they had been shot within moments of one another...
-The body of a man in Haiti, face-down in the center of city street, apparently shot from the back, his body abandoned....

The reaction these images evoked in my ran the gamut: 
-One has the choice whether to let the subject matter into the conscience - look at the images, weep and get back to the festival? Or, look at them, weep and carry them with you in your thoughts and actions?

-Another thought - it is always worth it to extend even the smallest acts of humanity. Always worth it to bring up uncomfortable topics at cocktail parties, just to push people to think and remember and be aware. The victims in these images cannot help themselves - we are the only ones who can help them so we have to try. Write about it, talk about it, take to the streets as these people are your common man.

-I thought of the Haitian cab drivers I always have in Boston and evaluate it like this. My mother's parents were the survivors of a war torn circumstances. She was never alive during WWII but I have seen the affects on her of the generation that picks up the pieces of such devastation. And these Haitian cab drivers with whom I have had many a conversation in French after a late night at work or perhaps after a drink with a friend, their war is right now - their war is happening today - I wonder what they have seen. What scars are they carrying?
-The old Chechnyan woman - she was maybe a mother, a grandmother - and I thought, she has lived a long and hard life - what does one want when they are old? To be surrounded by children and grandchildren, that is the dream of many. She deserves to stop and just be old, enjoy the fruits of long and hard lived life, but instead there she was elderly and frail, trying to eek out her survival - her husband and son had been killed.

And so from this exhibit came the desire for another lifetime, one dedicated to the study of these complex regional histories around the world. And another to dedicate my life to the plight of those so much less fortunate than myself.

And what about my quest to be a mother and grow a family? That's a lifetime of work right there.

I could spend one lifetime fixing the law school wound I still carry around - that is, working to pay off my educational debt asap and then going back to school and becoming an attorney.

I could spend part of a lifetime at least learning about Poland - the language for starters. I would also spend a great amount of time getting to know my family and their story. I would also learn about my grandparents and document what they went through.

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