Sunday, February 18, 2007

Indifference to the Suffering of Others

In November of 2003, while attending Camp Wellstone for citizen activism training, I stayed at a downtown Detroit hotel, which was hosting the annual Democratic Socialists of America convention. Cornel West, professor of the philosophy of religion at Harvard, was speaking the evening I attended. I will never forget his statement: "We live in a time when it’s fashionable to be indifferent to other people’s suffering." In fact, I have this quote pasted below my bathroom mirror.

This morning I read a horrific article in the New York Times online by Nicholas Kristof, Torture by Worms, (subscription required) which reminded me of West’s statement, which is always fresh in my mind because I see it every day.

The article describes former President Jimmy Carter’s trip to Ghana, where he visited the Carter Center's project to wipe out the Guinea worm, a horrendous two-foot-long parasite in grows in the body and finally pops out, causing excruciating pain (photo). Carter proved himself strong enough to weep along with the victims of this torture by worms.


After vivid descriptions of the worms leaving the bodies of adults and children, it goes on to describe Carter as having led the way in waging the battle against the Guinea worm for the past two decades. It is expected to be eradicated worldwide within the next five years.

While Carter is one of many private citizens in this country who is doing his utmost to alleviate the physical suffering of others, our nation doesn’t have a very good record. In fact, according to The Center for Global Development, the U.S. ranks 19th out of 21 rich countries for how much money it gives in aid to the rest of the suffering world.

1 comment:

Tod Brilliant said...

Nice observations, Gail. Carter is someone who confuses the hell out of me, as I see so many conflicting sides of this man. He seems to really understand - but then he goes and partners with the e-vile vinyl industry for his Habitat projects. Yet he really does appear to be a saint.