Our parents, our birthplace – both are out of our control. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be born right now in Afghanistan or Iran or another country suffering from economic collapse or repressive regimes. We complain here about not finding the brand we want in the store, not being able to go to the mountains to ski this weekend, not being able to find a plumber until Monday. “First world problems,” the new label.
I watch the news, my daily form of self-flagellation, and am filled with horror and admiration at the same time. An Afghan woman sells her newborn to feed the rest of her children. That newborn will go to some man when she is able to walk. I shudder to think what comes next. Women sedate their children to alleviate their hunger pangs and the endless crying they can’t bear to hear any more. Young women protest in the streets, their courage beyond my comprehension. If taken by authorities, they may suffer the fate of one young woman whose eyes were gouged out, who was raped, sodomized, and beaten. They sent her home. Doctors couldn’t stop the internal bleeding. Death must have looked like the holy grail.
Life is tough enough on its own, but what humans do to each other makes it worse. I continually question why. Power may be one answer, aptly described by Lord Acton: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But it can’t be the only answer. The horrors are too great. We have urges, fierce urges, that drive us to behaviors we can’t imagine until one inconceivable horror tops another. In the land where I live, the growing horror is guns. Our children die more from gunshot wounds than anything else. Yet, in light of what goes on in other parts of the world, that horror seems minor by comparison.
What is wrong with us? I ask this question so often now that I’m beginning to understand why I may not be sorry to leave the planet. Is this one form of preparation for my own death? That life here will be so insufferable, leaving will be a better option. I think of the holy grail of death with greater fondness these days, although I’ve never been afraid of it. I’ve been more afraid of what people might do to me on my way to that exalted state.