Friday
Aug062010

« Faith and Faithlessness »

Yesterday I was listening to public radio and on one of the news shows they were talking about Naomi Campbell's testimony in the tribunal seeking to get the truth about president Charles Taylor of Liberia and his trade in blood diamonds. I finally came to understand how Campbell the supermodel was involved, how she was a guest at a dinner in South Africa, and how she was given the mysterious dirty rocks that were the illegal uncut diamonds that are highly regulated otherwise. Not ever knowing or really caring about the comings and goings of a supermodel of her stature, I thought somehow she was a celebrity activist on this case, that somehow she was caught up unawares and then made it her work to seek justice in a way like one might expect Bono of U2 or some other celebrity who wants to raise the profile of their favorite cause. But no, the radio had someone talking about how this whole case is such a nuisance and how she'd like to just get it over because it is a hindrance to her "work." Excuse me? Is she that full of herself that her testimony that might damn this war criminal is not as important as her runway strutting and photo shoots and clubbing on the Riviera? What the fuck? People are dying because of this diamond trade and she can't be bothered to do her moral duty without moaning?

Less harshly—and because I expect less from my humble coworkers in the food distribution industry—I have to shake my head in disappointment at the results of a casual conversational survey I conducted today. In about 15 cases of checking in with coworkers of mine, barely anyone knew what I was talking about when I said today was a day of dubious repute: the 65th anniversary of Hiroshima. Many didn't even know what it meant. Some, to greater or lesser degree, made some snarky comment about Japs or Slopes (new to me) or fell back on reciting the old argument that it would have taken a million men to die if we didn't drop the bomb. It seemed it had little power to shock. I think only two of them understood I was posing the question out of some ethical concern. Only one barely entered into a conversation for a few moments, seeing the thing as a major turning point in human history, the time when it became clear that we really could act as gods, at least in the destructive capacity. Or that we actually had the power to destroy life as we know it, and the passage of 65 years since those ignoble bombings hasn't done anything to make the world a safer place.

August 6th has another dubious distinction of being the anniversary of the murder of a friend of ours from childhood. He was murdered at point blank in a drug deal gone bad. He was unarmed and never packed anyway, being more of a peace loving wannabe hippy who found it more lucrative to sell drugs than to get a "real job" that had no sense of adventure to it. He was a smart guy, excepting of course that his chosen profession was a dead end job, no matter how lucrative it was. Oh, he had been in trouble before and did some prison time. He drew negative attention to the family and had some tough love applied by being kicked out of his house. He tried to get out of an industry where the only way out is to get dead first. These days, those of us who have been affected by this would like to see how it goes with the legalization of marijuana, in hopes that the black market might lose some of its charm and power. In the same way as I support gay marriage but don't need it, I support legalization but for no gain of my own to be had. Is the system not broken enough as it is, warranting a radically different response than we've been giving for so long? So far my marriage hasn't been threatened by gay couples who have wed, and I'd dare support the pot legalization in hopes that maybe murder might be taken out of the equation.

Sure, I realize a lot of people just can't bear to look at this stuff in all its layered complexity. But really we have to face that society has done a good job of distracting us from doing so. There is little structure in place to facilitate the asking of big questions and the understanding or ability to hold the weight of the answers that follow. At times I am not even sure people want it. Or maybe they might be interested if it is downloadable, air conditioned, or low calorie. Let's just hope Naomi C doesn't carry much weight in the public discourse.

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