Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving without Mumbai

These are Asian spices in an outdoor market. I have seen such displays in various Indian markets, and in China and other countries, but I am thinking if India, especially. While we were going through all the Thanksgiving weekend motions, we -- especially Patrick, my son-on-law, and I were keeping tabs on the horror unfolding in Mumbai -- whichh the Indian press calls "their 9/11". Not their first terrorist attack by any means but the first were the terrorist chose their victims almost one by one -- not the random killings of bombs planted in busy places. This enormously important event was on the news yet, on Thanksgiving day, the only mentions of it were between Patrick and I; it seemed not to affect any of the many other people we saw that day. We Americans can block out what is going on in the rest of the world -- or I should say, most people do not feel empathy or even curiosity about what it happening to people in other places.

Since the first orbits of the earth more than 50 years ago, we have seen pictures to tell us what a small planet we live on but we are insensible to what happens beyond our immediate perception. A quirk of mine is to imagine larger areas. At one point during Thanksgiving dinner, when everyone had quieted as they ate, I could see something like the scene repeated in millions of homes across the US, each one somewhat different, but rarely so different as not to be almost interchangeable in terms of the food on the table and the overall surroundings, the assorted people, from infants to grandparents -- and barely any, unless of Indian background -- thinking about Mumbai and the people dying there.

The writer E.O. Wilson has liken the humans on earth to an ant colony. We have our roles and go about them, not really sensitive anyone else -- yes, there is a caste among us whose job it is to gather information from afar and even to try to make it known to others but that is a very new wrinkle on the skin of the vastness of humanity. Once those who gathered knowledge or retained history talked only to others of their own groups. Today those who work in what they grandly all The Media think they are talking to everyone, but they are not; for the most part they are still talking only to others of their peculiar sort. Perhaps this should not make me as sad and almost angry as it does. I ponder that, why do I want others to care about things they cannot influence? Why do I think it's terrible that the majority of Americans aren't even sure where Mumbai is or know that until recently it was called Bombay? To a degree -- but probably only a smallish degree -- we chose the role we have in this multi-body beast called Human Beings, a fact I should know by now I must accept.

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