Sunday, May 13, 2012

Visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng

We left the rush of the city for wider, greener land. The Cambodia countryside was quite pretty with interesting flowers and foliage. We walked winding paths where birds chirped overhead and big butterflies fluttered around. It was quite peaceful, which just wasn't right.

Because this is the Killing Fields. 

This is a place where people were executed after being tortured in horrific ways and thrown into mass graves. Men, women, children. During seasons like this when there's a lot of rain, more bones and clothing come unearthed. Right on the path there was a set of teeth. Teeth that belonged to someone. A person alive with hopes and dreams. A person who was important to someone. A person who was loved and who loved others. And now those teeth are telling a story, as they are exposed to those that visit this site to learn and remember the 2-3 million people that were exterminated.

On this path is also a tree. On that tree the executioners used to hang speakers to blast music. They wanted to cover up the sounds of the dying. They numbed their senses so they wouldn't have to face the horrible truth of their actions. They created enough noise so others wouldn't hear the cries of the victims.

Don't we do that though? Don't we numb ourselves to the cries of those in distress? Of course there's a big jump in the comparison because we're not literally murdering people, but we certainly fill our lives with white noise. Pain is certainly all around us. In this part of the world, it's pretty blatant. You can't miss the horror of a toddler begging on the street or a ridiculously young girl prowling for a man.

You can't miss it, but you can ignore it. 
You can numb yourself so that it doesn't break your heart. 
Our culture does numb so very well.

In our country, the pain of others may be easier to avoid, but that doesn't mean it's not there. We just find different routes to take that avoid the seedier neighborhoods in our communities. We shut our eyes to injustice and hope that someone else will find solutions. And let me be clear. By we I mean me. I do these things. 

At the same time, I know many people in my church and community that are working hard, stepping into other people's pain. I know wonderful people, doing some wonderful things for the least of these. I just struggle though because it's never enough. I hate to say that but it's true. 

It's not enough. We're not doing enough. As an individual, I'm not doing enough. As a family, we're not doing enough. As a church, a group of friends, as a community, we aren't doing enough. We depend on the work of a few to do what we all should be doing.

These issues are so big, and the thought that it will never be enough makes me want to both give up and fight harder at the same time. Life will always be lived in a tension where there's beauty and dread. The dreadful parts can make us want to numb ourselves and just give up, give in to the numbness. But then what? Darkness gets disguised as light. The ugly parts of our humanness becomes the norm. 

It's not just a suggestion that we should take care of the marginalized within our communities. It's really not. When we see injustice, we can't say that it's not "our thing" to respond. We can't hear about human trafficking and say it's just not my issue. The minute you hear about people being exploited it becomes your responsibility to do something.

It doesn't have to be huge. 
It just has to be a conversation that continues.

Get involved.
Somehow get involved.
Fight for those that can't fight for themselves. Be a part of solutions. It doesn't look the same for everyone. Prevention is a huge component of this battle. I'll share a lot more about what is being done in this area, but there are so many ways that we can get involved, and there's always room for improvement.

We can't just ignore though. We can't turn up the tv, our ipods, or surf the web to numb ourselves to the cries of those all around us. We have to look at people and see them and not look away. We can't hang our speakers from a tree and pretend nothing is wrong. We have to be people of action.

No comments: