After I sent a work email last Friday morning, I reached for my phone to scroll through my Facebook news-feed. Before my thumb could start scrolling, the realization of the emotional impact that this action would have on me, made me put my phone down and take a walk outside instead.
In Colombia almost 20 years ago, I was riding an old city bus next to my mother and sister. The driver drove fast through the humid air, while I stared out the window with the almost blinding sun rays. My gaze fixed at the top of a mountain, the same mountain where a few days before, one of my mother´s co-worker had been suffocated to death before his fingers were cut off.
His head was found buried, still connected to his body and wrapped around a plastic bag. It was quite a violent time in my country and although my mom tried to protect me from seeing all the violence, it was like trying to cover the sun with one finger; impossible. It was my mom´s purpose to get my sister and I out of this violence, a purpose she achieved a few years later when we moved to the US.
My mother has always been an empathetic woman and she taught me to care for animals and others.
Today I realize that empathy is the ability of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes. Living through hardships - in my case, the violence in my country - teaches us that pain is very, undoubtedly real.
I have never considered myself a refugee fleeing war such as those fleeing to Europe and to North America;
nor have I been a black person constantly struggling for equality;
nor have I been a defenseless animal, victim of torture and cruelty done by us humans;
nor have I been in one of today´s popular mass murders;
No, I have not; yet, I CAN put myself in the shoes of all these victims, and feel what could only be a portion of the pain that they have endured.
There is no denying that hate is in the air. Donald Trump´s Republican Convention speech and the cheering that followed after every hate and discriminatory fueled statement, was painful to get through. The multiple mass murders happening weekly all around our world are multiplying in alarming numbers, and as painful as it is to watch, the comfort of choosing to turn a blind eye, of which I have been guilty myself, will very soon make all these acts of violence, just another "unfortunate" occurrence in the world.
Caring is hard, and you do run the risk of having a heartache like the one I have had for a few days. But turning a blind eye to injustice because “it is someone else´s battle to fight” implores the question, is staying out of the battle “not another form of complicity in oppression disguised under the banner of foreignness?”
Too often we are left alone to fight battles that are important to us. Too often we stay out of battles because they feel foreign to us, in the idea that they will never affect us personally; that is, until they do.
I believe that it is our duty as rational human beings to learn what is like to be a refugee, a victim or racism, today's terrorism, and an abused animal; in order for us to truly understand why we must not turn a blind eye to the pain. As foreign as we would like these acts of violence to be, they are very real and bring suffering to too many of us. The pains of today aren´t only in my heart, they affect a great number of us. Don´t turn a blind eye to your neighbor´s battle, join it, it will make us all stronger.
Colombian, living and traveling the world (well- not so much at the moment) I am currently sharing my time between San Diego, CA and Albuquerque, NM.