Thursday, March 26, 2009

He’ll stop the next war

Sophia looks to heaven

My current source of stress is an article I’m writing about American perceptions of poverty. I’m having a really hard time with it. I don’t know how much I have to say about poverty. I do believe that after growing up in the vast, dirty necropolises of Bangkok and Manila that I have a better conception of what global poverty really means than the average American. I believe that much of my angst and uncertainty and depression, and that of my brother and sister and fellow missionary kids, is due to having experienced the reality of suffering around the world. I also believe that almost all Americans don’t want to hear about it.

We learn this lesson young, as missionary kids. We learn to stifle our knowledge, to stuff it down, to become chameleons, able to adapt to the culture we’re surrounded by and ignore all of our previous knowledge. We learn that American kids don’t want to hear about Thai kids. We learn that Thai kids don’t want to know what America is like, don’t want to hear us brag about all of the fancy stuff we’ve seen. We learn that the lines that separate the poor from the rich are very distinct, and we learn that we’re on one side of the line in one country and another in the other.

I didn’t choose this topic. It was chosen for me, by an editor. I’m realizing why many writers have problems being given assignments. While the subject is close to my heart, it’s almost too close--so close that I have a tough time writing objective sentences. Poverty IS suffering. Poverty is what’s wrong with the world. And poverty is our fault. Poverty is MY fault. I also know those are not helpful ways to think about it, and that, in order to deal with poverty, I have to put those facts out of my mind.

The fact is: no one wants to hear about it. No one wants to hear about those whose suffering is worse than their own. No one wants to hear about things that they can do nothing about. What does it help to feel the pain of the poor more deeply? I don’t know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where are you? We miss you.