What Kind of World Are We?


I’m writing from my office right now, where I occasionally cover the reception desk while our receptionist takes her break. I usually spend this time reading articles and editorials. Often, these articles give me inspiration to write. Usually I have little trouble getting my thoughts together for a coherent and at least mildly compelling piece.

The article I just finished reading has made me angry enough to write, but simultaneously knocked me speechless, so please forgive me for any incoherence. It is about Duterte’s death squads in the Philippines, where drug addicts are being slaughtered as a matter of government policy, while Duterte stands by and giggles about his intended target of murdered addicts being in the tens-of-thousands.

“I tell you, I will triple it. ‘Pag hindi nasunod ang gusto ko, to get rid of my country (of the drug problem), you can expect 20,000 or 30,000 more (deaths),” Duterte said in Davao City after his return from an official visit to Japan.  ABS-CBN News

Compounding the outrage that article has piqued, the standard programming in my office’s lobby is CNN, and as I’m sure you all can imagine, one moment after the next is some enraging Trump story, quote, or (usually) tweet. Right now, the talking heads are discussing anti-Muslim rhetoric. I’m trying to not to listen to the details.

And earlier today, I read an article about Bana Al-abed, a seven-year-old Syrian girl whose Twitter account gave the world a view into the life of a child stranded in Aleppo. Bana’s account has been deleted and nobody knows where she is. The article called her our generation’s Anne Frank. The comments section was saturated with users insisting she is fake, or if she exists, she is controlled by the United States as a propaganda tool. Comments range from an innocent enough question about how Bana has internet access to the following maddening specimen from a user “Kilgore_Trout” at 3:55 am today:

Lovely little girl with remarkably clean clothes for a child living in rubble and without electricity. One can only imagine how her mother gets those whites so white with the colors staying so vivid.

I probably shouldn’t be tackling this post while sitting at reception, serving as the first face I see when our members come in the door. That’s because there’s tears welling behind my eyes and threatening to come pouring out. I don’t mean to sound weak, melodramatic, or easily shaken, but it’s an accumulation of factors this morning and afternoon that are leading me once again to question: “What kind of world are we?”

I’ve asked this question so many times in the past but I’m not sure I’ve ever the bewilderment as intensely in the past as I am feeling it right now.

What kind of world are we, where we consume news like Duterte’s death squads and the Syrian Civil War and simply turn the page?

What kind of world are we, where we are more intent on debunking one particular child as  a fake, instead of focusing on the fact that this girl, real or fake, represents the true stories of thousands of others in Aleppo, and millions of others in the world?

What kind of world are we, where the consequences of anti-Muslim rhetoric are even a necessary topic of discussion on the news; and moreover, where pundits go on camera and argue in its favor?

I could go on and on asking these rhetorical questions, but I won’t. It’s a constant struggle to battle the cynicism of knowing that these things happen in our world. I generally teeter on the border right in between optimism and realism. I am not deluded into believing this is Candy Land, but at the same time I reject President-Elect Trump’s dystopian portrait of our country (and planet). I believe that the world, and people, are both good and bad; dark and light – never wholly one or the other. But on days like today, when the bad reality hits you right over the head, you get dizzy and, most of all, immobilized.

I’ve come to the juncture that every writer hates: I’ve written a piece but have no conclusion. If I wrote one it would be full of crap, anyway. Thanks for reading.

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl