For Christmas, let’s respect humanity

It was possibly the most telling contrast I have been witness to in quite some time. In just a couple of hours, my perspective was turned upside down, in a way that only a good storyteller, or a mediocre one (in this case Hollywood), could cause.

At 8 last night, I was working on the biggest hurdle that stood between me and the end. You know the feeling. The end of every term has that hill.

I remember my junior year in high school when I first started visualizing finals week, the hill was at the very end. That year it was in the form of one big history essay, which required such work (due either to its requirements, or to procrastination, I shall not specify) that studying for my other exams became almost an afterthought. Every other assignment or test had its resources minimized to the smallest of devotion, be they time, energy or just conscious thought.

In fact, as I viewed the situation in my mind, not only was the hill tall and steep, especially for an exhausted student as myself, but Mr. Westcott sat in a tree at the crest wielding a lethal weapon aimed at my academic existence.

This weapon, of course, took the literal form of a final of his own, which demanded nearly a photographic ability to memorize, plus the talent to be able to draw detailed maps, write eloquent essays and choose the correct oval (luckily there were no chads involved).

This year, the hill stood tall. Three years ago, it would have been Mount Everest, but this year, it is simply the usual semi-yearly hike. This year it is in the form of an essay on poverty. Though I was sure to shock certain conservatives of a particularly cold-hearted nature, I was linking the solution of poverty with Catholic Church efforts.

As noble as that may seem, this is a special time of year. The plight of the poor has simply become a series of figures, averages and estimates. It almost seems like hunger, homelessness and unemployment have become mathematical problems to be solved. The efforts of the Church are quite predictable. Feed, clothe and assist in any way possible, on limited funds. I read books outlining the Church’s history on the subject, its future obligations and its official thoughts about the poor.

All of this was rolling off of me in the same way that a radio broadcast of a soccer match in the Czech Republic would. I just needed enough to fill the pages. I planned to take time to ponder what I had actually discovered over Christmas break.

But Tuesday night, I took a study break to go watch the SAB-sponsored preview of Thirteen Days, a new movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis. While I hope that it is not possible for me to ruin the ending for you, I should just say, my only comment upon departing from Kelley Auditorium was, “After seeing how close we came to nuclear holocaust, this essay seems rather insignificant.”

But upon closer inspection, I realized something else. I saw humanity again. All day, I had been reading about those in poverty as if they were simply a problem to solve.

The differences between us and them seem so great. But in a morbid way, that movie made me realize that if those missiles had been launched, the poor would have died just as horribly as the rich.

We are, in fact, all a proletariat to a government that has more wealth than we can fathom. It has used that wealth to build weapons that grant it the power to end us all. The decisions made by Kennedy and Kruschev held us all in the balance.

But my point is not to rail against nuclear ability. My point is this: We are all in this together. Soviets and Americans alike stood on the brink of peril. At that moment, the ties that bound our humanity prevented the respective governments from saying, “The hell with you. You are a Soviet, who cares what happens to you.”

In the same sense of unity, we enter the Christmas season. Now more than ever, we need to recognize that the ties that bind us to our common women and men have never disintegrated.

We cannot say, “You are poor. What difference does your life or death make to me? Who cares what happens to you?” We cannot say, “You are Columbian. Some of your fellow Columbians, people you don’t know, traffic cocaine to our cities. Who cares what happens to you?” We cannot say, “You are Iraqi. Your leader, with whom you have no personal connection, threatens our gasoline prices. Who cares what happens to you?”

But, I see people saying it everywhere. When I argue, “We cannot continue to use a system of capital punishment, for it unfairly targets the poor,” people scoff at me and condemn me. When senators in our SGA encouraged their fellow student leaders to look into the evidence that shows that we are killing thousands of Iraqi children, unnecessarily, I can see Nick Pistor, Jim McNichols and others, shaking their heads in disbelief. People like them ask, “How can you defend the Iraqis? They are evil. Why should we help them?”

And when more than 200 students, faculty and staff stand up to defend the people of Latin America who have been killed without concern for their human worth, we listen to people who criticize us. They try to pick us apart with the most minute details and biased studies.

It seems that if they can just refute the smallest fact in our case, then the problems in Latin America don’t really exist. It frees them from ever having to listen and care about people who are simply Latinos or worse yet, cheap labor.

Of them I ask: what is so threatening about us? How do we, as groups who call out in defense of life anger you so?

As we approach Christmas, let us try to brush away our political theories and excuses.

Let’s try to again look at people for who they are. Humanity is not a game of profit through resource usage, just like it is not the pawn in games of nuclear chicken. Let’s hope it doesn’t require the world to walk to the edge of utter destruction before we can once again see the people around us-all around us-as mortals, equal to us in all ways except political weight.