Sunday, March 04, 2007

Visiting the grandparents/the value of a life

I just got back from the required pre-Senegal visit to my grandparents and other assorted relatives in south Georgia. Of course everyone wanted to talk to me about Senegal. Except no one could ever remember the country's name, even if I had just told them. Nigeria seemed to be the only actual African country anyone could name.

Anyway, the relatives had two basic reactions to me going to Senegal: the ones who I generally find to be nicer told me that Peace Corps is like a secular version of missionary work (this was supposed to be a compliment), and they wish me the best and they're going to pray for me. The other relatives said something along the lines of "why would you want to go live somewhere so poor, among a bunch of heathens, after how hard we've worked to give you a nice life?" (accompanied by some nasty racist remarks by my grandfather, which really pissed me off).

While I was down there visiting, two "big" sad events happened: a bus carrying a sports team (baseball maybe?) from Ohio accidentally drove off the side of a bridge in Atlanta, killing six. And tornadoes swept through the Southeast, killing twenty people in three states, including eight students who were sheltering in their high school gym when the school was hit by a tornado and the gym collapsed.

My grandparents and other relatives were glued to CNN, following the coverage of these events for days afterward, even though, after the basic facts had been established, there was really nothing new to report.

I can't help but contrast their compassion for the deaths in Georgia and Alabama with their utter lack of understanding or concern for other suffering people around the world. Why care so much about a few strangers in another city or state who are killed in random accidents, but have so little concern for millions of people in other countries who are dying preventable deaths from war, famine, and disease? For me, the death of someone in Africa feels just as real as the death of someone in Georgia or Alabama. Do other people not feel this? Or do they think that the life of an African just doesn't matter as much as that of an American?

Is it just ignorance? If CNN would cover Darfur, northern Uganda, the DRC, or Burma half as much as they covered that bus accident, would Americans start to care?

1 comment:

Princezz O'Phun said...

Amen! (no pun intended... ok, maybe just a little)

Becca, your heart's in the right place, my friend! Go out there and KICK. ASS!!

... and do include me on any mass-mailings/emails/etc. along the way! :)