“The Libyan people are nothing, if not a resilient people.”
“There is a dignity in these Somalies. Desperate, starving, they keep their dignity even in their darkest hour.”
Which of the world’s peoples are not resilient and or dignified?
The suffering, drama and tragedy of Libya and the famine in the Horn of Africa aside, the rhetorical turn here that has become so common place is nonsensical.
We hear this sort of thing on the news constantly when a nation is in a crisis. These sweeping evaluations of a populace undergoing a trial and the people there are grouped together as a nationality and then lauded as “heroic,” or “dignified in the face of suffering” or “strong” or “resilient.”
Surely it begs the question compared to whom?
One wonders which nationality we would assess as pathetic and embarrassing while starving to death? Which country would be a bunch of quitters in the face of a civil war? Which violently oppressed people really just didn’t get the whole suffering thing quite right but if they really work on it they just might do a better job next time around?
My children, in the face of this rending of their family have been fantastic. Wonderfully resilient, brave and accepting.
I have heard this from all quarters — Leaver, family, friends and from my own lips too. I say it all the time — “the kids are great. They’re amazing kids.”
Compared to who? How many children between the ages of seven and eleven have I intimately observed going through this? One guess everyone.
That’s right, the one who shouted out zero gets a free appliance.
These appraisals are not only a bit absurd, but I’m beginning to think ultimately self-serving.
Our daughter has said she’s relieved that the fighting has stopped. The Leaver presented this as not just a balm but a sort of justification of the act of wonton self-fulfillment that we have wrought on our family. Talk about lowering the bar. Of course my daughter is relieved. I am too. Although we still of course fight, it’s just easier to contain and isolate it from everyone else. But I think this relief stems from an entirely self-serving false dichotomy.
The comparison should not be between our current peace (which is as restive as the DMZ between the Koreas) and the fighting of the recent past. My child is ten. It makes sense that’s what she remembers and compares stuff too is only the most recent events. As adults, we have and should have a bigger and broader perspective. The comparison should be between us breaking up and everything else — the almost two decades of life together.
We had many years, and many times when we were happy, functional together as a couple and as a family. I would even modestly suggest the vast majority of our life together was a good one.
But we have the immediate looming memory of war and shit-storms that eclipses everything.
Surely coping, adapting, surviving no matter how dignified shouldn’t be a point of pride. People are resilient. People cope and adapt. My kids are people, my wife is people, I am people. We all cope and adapt.
But what will happen in the long-term? Or even immediate term? And what happened to our past?
This is not a natural disaster, after all. Myself and the Leaver carry the responsibility for this, entirely. Circumstances did not conspire against us, nor health, nor our children (I know many the marriage that has been rent by a child’s addictions, behaviours, or health issues).
No, we did this. And the fact that our children are coping does not make them heroes or a testament to how good we were as parents. It just makes the demolition easier to do.
What sort of testament is the demolition to us as parents?
Do we look at Khadaffi as doing a great service to his people because they’ve had an opportunity to prove themselves heroic and resilient?
A man gets drunk, falls a sleep in bed with a cigarette. The house catches fire. Suffering from burns, smoke inhalation he repeatedly dives into the inferno to rescue his children.
Is he a hero for saving his kids? Or an irresponsible moron for starting the fire in the first place?
Both of course. As we all are; fallible human beings who try.
But do you give him a medal for it?