I have, for all intents and purposes, been on a news vacation. I tried tuning in only to watch the weather. That seemed fruitless considering that the forecast hasn't changed in the last two months. It's hot. It's going to be hot tomorrow, and probably the day after that.
I've been boycotting the news because it seems that each newscast is filled stories which break my heart, and I was left feeling hopeless at the conclusion of the broadcast. I know that my ignorance does not make the negative news go away, but my psyche needed a break. I know that avoidance is not the best coping mechanism, but it seems to be working for me.
When I was watching the news I found myself fixated on particular stories. The earthquake in Haiti moved me to tears on more than one occasion. I suspect I took it personally because I could relate to victims who emerged from the rubble as amputees. I identified with the grief of limb loss, yet I cannot comprehend the devastation in those survivor's lives. As much as I try, I cannot grasp the pain that these resilient individuals are feeling.
I am haunted by images I saw on CNN that depicted court mandated amputations in Afghanistan. I can't wrap my head around the barbaric act of taking a machete and systematically chopping off a limb. I begin to cry as I think about what the "prisoners" must be feeling as the time for their sentence approaches. I would be out of my mind with fear. I remember how scared I was before my amputation, and mine was for medical reasons under anesthesia.
The details of another travesty against humanity managed to sneak past my intentional news boycott. I learned about the literal hunting of individuals with Albinism in Tanzania. The limbs of these individuals are deemed to have mystical powers and line the pockets for human poachers.
As a teacher for the blind and visually impaired, I had several students who were diagnosed with Albinism. These wonderful kids were brave as they faced the relentless taunting from their peers, and sometimes from their families, because of their disabilities. They looked unique and had vision impairments, but these students were smart, funny and a joy to teach.
The thought of one of my sweet students being stalked for their limbs makes me sick. I cannot comprehend that in 2010 we have people hunting and mutilating another person. The legs and arms are used in witchcraft, and the blood from the limbs is consumed to bring about wealth.
Imagine sleeping in your home to be awoken by sword wielding invaders. They grab you and just start screaming, "All I want to do is cut off your legs. All I want is your legs." This is happening and, although it is distressing to think about, I've decided that ignorance is no longer bliss.
We need to become educated about these barbaric acts. I feel compelled as a teacher for the blind, and as an amputee, to do my part by passing on the information. Please take a moment to learn about the plight of the people with Albinism in Tanzania. (This article is a good start.) We need to support them not because we are amputees, but because we are human.
It's difficult to continue to believe in humanity when I learn about stories like Tanzania. I would be remiss if I failed to reference somebody who personified the good in people. Today is the birthday of my Pop, my maternal grandfather. He passed away nearly 17 years ago yet I can still see his face and hear his warm voice. He demonstrated unconditional love and I miss him dearly.
I love you Pop. I know that you are with me, but I could really use one of your hugs today. Instead I'll hug Robby and explain why he was named after you. I hope that you are proud of me, because I'm extremely proud to be your Granddaughter.