“MOVING INTO THE FUTURE”
by Jessica Kuzmier
In less then a month's time, two major hurricanes crashed into the United States. This has wreaked havoc on the uprooted populace. Media have showed the heroism of some, and called on the faults of all levels of government. The effects of Katrina and Rita will be felt for years to come.
Eventually, time and other events will push the tragedies into the background for most people. Considering the enormity of the destruction, it seems incredulous that it would. But the events of September 11th were also horrific, and life moved on from the event. The "war on terror" was part of mainstream media, but the shock of the event wore off. Many people, in the emotion of 9/11, felt that society should change, become more cohesive, whether in the holistic sense or the religious sense. However, it soon became apparent that society did not change at all. In a way, it was a tantamount to how strong American society was, that it did not change. After a horrific attack on its soil, culture, and way of life, it could be argued that by not altering, America proved how resilient it was.
The dark side of this is that the edges of the tragedy faded into the background, becoming nothing more than a rallying war cry to justify the finishing of a war that had been initiated a dozen years earlier by a previous president. The tragedy of September 11th was only to be felt on televised anniversary services by the sites of the terrorist acts. Since the private tragedy was no longer public, it was as though it didn't exist anymore.
Of course, this is far from true. Children are still growing up without the parents that died then. Widows and widowers may have moved on, perhaps even have remarried, but the scars of their early loss remain. Ground Zero is, in the words of a survivor who visited the area, looks more of a construction site rather than a memorial. It may be four years ago, but effects of the damage remains. This result is more than likely to be repeated with the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport, and countless other communities will be in the rebuilding stages in four years' time.
The danger of letting events fade into the background is that it can seem that everything is fixed. It makes people who struggle years after a tragedy seem like stragglers, people who can't or won't get their act together. A positive, let's-get-on-with it attitude is essential to moving forward, but it shouldn't be an excuse to snub those who haven't healed on the schedule that was arbitrarily assigned. It isn't an excuse to forget the tragedy of other people.
Recently, the Dalai Lama was featured on the CNN show, "Larry King Live". A person called in, asking how come it takes an event such as Hurricane Katrina for there to be such an outpouring of compassion. It is because of the enormity and the shock of the event that people feel so compelled to act. Unfortunately, when events fade into the background, it is easy to forget that the effects of tragedy are still there. It is important to remember, in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh that all people suffer.
Hope is needed to move forward. But acknowledgment of our common suffering is what needed to have compassion for people wherever they are in recovery. America is a country of optimism. In the words of President Bush, we are a "can-do" society. Positive thinking is not an excuse for leaving anyone behind, for all people who have suffered are deserving of compassion, and not only the so-called "success stories".