I remember when Americans were one of the most compassionate people in the world, willing to go to the far corners of the globe to help, send money, Care Packages, food and even military help if we thought it was having a humanitarian benefit. We felt so fortunate to be citizens of this great nation and so compassionate for those who were hurting in some way. Maybe it was because of our immigrant roots. But we cared about the rest of the world.
But it got off track someplace. And it happened on my watch. It happened sometime between my growing up and becoming a senior citizen. And it seems to be getting much worse, much faster!
We have become far less generous that we were only a generation or so back. We are nowhere close to being the most generous country when it comes to foreign aid. But were the richest country! We have the strongest military but we only commit troops now to protect our interests. Committing troops nowadays is largely to impose our own ideals on others. Weve become ardent crusaders for The American Way instead of caring helpers and we all know what horrible consequences occur when ardent crusaders are fervently fighting for their cause.
The latest ghastly mistake resulting in the slaughter of 17 Iraqis has been a mere news item in recent days but I dont detect any compassion, regret or even ownership for this tragedy. I can only presume that it is because there wasnt an American killed in the attack.
One of the 2000 candidates for U.S. presidency ran his campaign on a platform of compassionate conservativism an acknowledgement as to just how uncompassionate we had become. The compassionate thing worked. He ended up in the White House. While we havent seen much true compassion from the Washington since that election, it is a diversion for us to point the finger. We the people are the ones whove lost our ability to feel compassion for others. We the people are allowing our media and our leadership to take such a self-centered, unfeeling attitude toward the rest of the world. Instead of blaming our leaders or our media we need to exam our own hearts and see just how self-centered and callous we may be becoming in our rush for material wealth, technology fixes and our obsession with our own busy lives.
The downside of this clinical approach to killing people is that theres no feedback. Remember the B-29 airmen of World War II who firebombed Tokyo and were shocked when they actually had feedback of the impact, something they were unused to because they were well above the ground? The conflagration over Tokyo was so fierce they could actually smell the human flesh burning, even at their high altitudes!
If we continue to kill as if the enemy is an image in a video game, we will forget what taking a life is like. We will forget what compassion feels like. Then well forget what sorrow feels like. Then we will have forgotten what its like to be human.