Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The worth of a beating heart

It's so strange how different deaths have different impacts. Recently Tom Fox, a Quaker peace activist from the US, was found shot dead in Iraq where he and several other peace activists had been kidnapped some time ago. The Quaker community has been constantly keeping each other informed of his situation and now his death. It seems strange that a population so aware of the deaths of Iraqis and US troops alike would pay so much more attention to the death of one of our own. The Quakers are the last people I would expect to be exalting one person's death when they are (more than most populations) so aware of the costs of violence in our world. Is Tom Fox's life worth more than anyone else's?

In Richmond when the Harvey family was murdered and the city went into shock, I wanted to ask people why they weren't shocked that other people are killed in Richmond all the time, why the death of a rich white family was worse than the death of black children or adults in poor neighborhoods. But it's not as if it's wrong to be shocked at a murder. Sometimes I feel it's a mark of ignorance to take individual deaths personally, to be moved by them, since it implies that you're not considering all the wrongful deaths and sufferings that happen every day around the world. No one can consider and mourn them all or we'd never be able to function. But on the other hand, what are we if we take all tragedies in stride, if we let nothing affect us? Is that diminishing the worth of all lives, the meaning of tragedy? We may function better, but don't we lose something?

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