The LA Times reported a story of a truck on the side of the road in a small town in Austria on Aug. 28 of this year. The refrigerated cargo transport had been abandoned, it seemed. But the flat tire and other abuses against the truck might have been preferred to authorities when they discovered the source of the stench inking from its sealed doors.
The suffocated, decomposing bodies of 71 men, women and children were in the back of the truck.
These people were refugees fleeing from war zones in Syria. They wanted safety for their children, their husbands, wives and themselves. Instead, their caravan to safety became a temporary mass grave.
As I looked at the pictures, I thought, “It’s not supposed to be this way.”
We, as humans, can’t still be this way. The photos of children trying to slip under razor wire fences while their parents hold up the strands with bleeding hands shouldn’t exist.
The men and women traveling by night, by any means necessary to reach safety shouldn’t have to do so. Humans are good. They care for and love one another; they wouldn’t just allow this to happen, would they?
Then, as I was clicking through the slideshow of pictures in the article, an ad appeared.
Game of Thrones is great. We follow the lives and deaths of its capricious characters like our own, mourning them when they die, cheering when they escape. It’s captured millions of people the way few things have.
The way reality has not.
When the unknown, unnamed faces of refugees were replaced by the characters whose history, relationships and ambitions we know by heart, I realized just how little we see.
Global Conflict, U.N. recently released in its annual report that 1 in every 122 people in the world are refugees. It is the highest this number has been since World War II.
When we look at the past, the millions of people who starved in camps and choked in gas chambers, we pacify ourselves by thinking we would have acted.
We memorialize those who risked, or gave, their lives to free the oppressed and say we would have stood up for the weak and the homeless, too. They are the heroes, and we, in the situation, would have done the same.
But the homeless are freezing, the hungry starve and we grow more and more concerned with ourselves, or, worse, those who don’t exist. We study the past but don’t learn from it. We commemorate the fallen but don’t reach out to those on the ledge.
We hide behind our television screens and Netflix accounts, choosing to care for the fictional instead of the forgotten.
The blinders we put on don’t let us see beyond the radius of our subdivisions. We care, sure, about what affects us.
In a camp in Calais, France, just a three-hour drive from Paris, 3,000 people live in tents, sleep in make-shift beds and walk through trash-ridden streets on shoeless feet.
They teach one another crippled English and try to make it to England where, surely, a better life awaits them. Many have died in this pursuit.
They are dying, dying for the freedom that America says is “inalienable.”
There is a pervasive selfishness growing here.
“Don’t allow ‘them’ to inconvenience us,” it says. “Don’t allow their lives, their deaths, to influence our happiness. Why should we ruin our community for the sake of another? Our nation has enough problems, why add the problems of another? We are not responsible for ‘them,’ right?”
But just because we do not slay them doesn’t mean our hands aren’t bloody.
This is not to say America should be Big Brother to the world. America can defend its own interests, only, and probably succeed.
America can turn a blind eye to the pain of the world, and so can you.
But is that the America you want? Is that the kind of person you want to be?
Authorities found a boat packed with 52 bodies floating off the coast of Libya later Friday. They, too, just wanted to live safely.
How many people have to die before we see them? Before we see beyond ourselves?
Clara Turnage is a sophomore journalism major from New Hebron, Miss.