forgetting the unforgettable

Yesterday a wise friend and accomplished leader in the New York business community wrote the following in response to my Washington Post article about famine in the Horn of Africa (@ http://ow.ly/5UYXP ) “The juxtaposition of the concentration of personal wealth with the increasing poverty and desperation of so many is more and more startling every day. It is clear that American politics today is dominated by greed with only a camera-ready nod toward compassion when it serves greed’s purpose.”

I thought of his words while reading this morning’s NY Times. On Monday the Times had unforgettable images of suffering children from Somalia on page one, but today there is nothing to be found in the paper about this enormous ongoing catastrophe except a one paragraph AP wire service story buried inside. Page one instead has a photo of Louis Vuitton shoes being sold at Bergdorf Goodman for $1,495 a pair.

So the world inexorably moves on, even past the most horrific suffering, or perhaps especially past the most horrific suffering. The Czech author Milan Kundera wrote in 1979 in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: “The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget Sinai and so on and so forth, until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten.”

That is the way of the world. But it need not be the way of the world we strive to achieve. Thanks to all at Share Our Strength who for nearly three decades have found a way to keep remembering, keep bearing witness, keep caring and organizing to bring change on behalf of those most vulnerable and voiceless.

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