On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till was murdered, though perhaps murder is too light a word to describe his fate. The fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago was found dumped in a Tallahatchie River is Mississippi after being kidnapped, brutally beaten, shot in the head, tied to a large metal fan with barbed wire, and thrown in the water. His killers’ jury deliberation lasted less than an hour; the all-white jury unanimously declared them innocent, arguing that the body could not be identified. It was certainly disfigured: Emmett’s corpse was not discovered until nearly a month after his slaying. His mother, who reluctantly let him travel to stay with his relatives in the Mississippi, gave Emmett an open-casket funeral. The funeral was attended by nearly a hundred thousand people in Chicago, arguably “one of the largest civil rights demonstrations of all time” ( http://www.biography.com/people/emmett-till-507515#impact-on-civil-rights).
Having recently turned seventeen, the anniversary of Emmett’s death speaks to me with even more power. Considering how I have outlived so many people, and how u have done nothing to deserve that, helps me understand the cruelty of their fates. For instance, the death of Isabel, my eight-year-old neighbor who lost her battle with inoperable brain cancer, has forced me to reexamine many aspects of my life. She never got to take part in so many things I take for granted. She never got her driver’s license; she never had her first kiss; she never even finished learning long division. I frequently baby sat her and her younger sister before and occasionally after her diagnosis, but I never quite grasped the magnitude of the situation. Here I was, perfectly healthy, and I’m struggling to cope with someone else’s struggle. Simply put, I was clueless. I had no grasp of the fleeting nature of life, or the randomness that strikes those around us. So when I first learned about Emmett Till’s murder, I, to a small degree, already understood it. A young boy — who could have been me, or one of my friends, or a family member — was slayed. For no good reason. His family forever mourned his senseless death. And there was nothing they could have done to protect him.
I have always been a huge fan of Carl Sagan. A dedicated scientist and activist, he frequently questioned humanity and its place in the Universe. To Sagan, the relative futility and insignificance of life on Earth, in comparison to the vastness of the Cosmos, merits a more compassionate approach to life in general. In this excerpt from his book “A Pale Blue Dot”, Sagan puts into simple terms how inconsequential the wars humans fight are, and suggests that we hold each other up and take care of our global community, instead of battling for control over an infinitesimal speck in a massive Universe.
I, personally, enjoy this line of thought. It forces me to put into perspective my daily struggles and reconsider how I treat others. Than’s artwork reminds me of actions I can take to broaden my worldview and treat others with more kindness and empathy. Though one can interpret the text in a rather nihilistic light, I choose to believe, as I’m sure Sagan would have agreed, that it expresses a humanitarian concern: we only have one planet, and we consistently destroy ourselves to control slivers of it — slivers of a pale blue dot in the vast emptiness of space.
Link to article: Migrant crisis: Refugees welcomed in Germany like war heroes as Berlin expects 10,000 in one day
As major news networks have finally noticed, Europe is facing an incredible migrant crisis. With the most refugees ever seen since the end of the Second World War, many countries are struggling to find a way to help (or completely shut out) these people. Notably, Hungary and Austria recently began closing off their borders and preventing asylum-seekers from even entering — regardless of their intended destination. Turkey and other southeastern European states are “nearing capacity” for the migrants, and many of the tens of thousands of more set their sights on western Europe, especially Germany. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has extended a warm welcome to the migrants, however, as scores pour into the country by the hour. This generosity is especially impressive, given her record of xenophobic comments toward muslim immigrants as recent as 2010 (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11559451). The German people have flooded the streets, offering food and toiletries for the refugees, as well as candy and children’s toys.
Germany, scholars from King’s College London speculate, is hoping its hospitable stance toward the migrants will aid its negative image resulting from its hardball negotiation with Greece in their financial crisis. However, the kindness extended to the exhausted refugees from absolute strangers offers reassurance during this period of calamity. Despite nearby countries’ efforts to keep out migrants and “protect their homes and jobs”, western European countries are stepping up to the plate (pardon the American sports reference). These countries — UK, France, Germany, and some of Scandinavia — are offering their plentiful resources and warmest wishes to those fleeing poverty and violence thousands of miles away. It’s nice to see a positive story in the news for once.
I admit that I, as a literate member of society, do, in fact, have a writing life. But I do real writing — writing that deals with complex issues and emotional debates, and not composing text messages — in two general situations. Either I have been assigned a blog post, or I am grappling with some sort of significant event in my life and I need to work through my feelings. Obviously, to avoid getting too “meta”, I’ll be discussing the latter.
I’m a very logical, rational person; according to the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test, I am an I/ENTJ. This acronym basically states that I think things through, and make decisions based on reason rather than emotion. That’s not to say that I don’t let my feelings play into my understanding of the world. Everyone’s do. What I mean is that I benefit from analyzing why I feel a certain way, and that I can break down situations into simpler ideas and events in order to better understand them. This is why writing matters to me. Being able to state my thoughts validates them, and moving from abstract sentiments and feelings to concrete ideas helps me better comprehend my experiences. Naturally, this writing becomes pretty philosophical pretty quickly, which is why I don’t often have time to engage in such deep self-reflection. These personal writings are mine, and mine only. I don’t ever intend to share them with others, not because of their content, but based on principle: I don’t want to misrepresent myself, and an accurate representation of myself would require infinite self-analysis. In other words, if even I don’t completely know myself, why would I offer an image of myself that’s incomplete or inaccurate to others?
Another reason I like to write is that writing makes me feel smart. And classy. If I’m writing, you can find me sipping hot tea by the fireplace, listening to a Mahler Symphony on my laptop as I type. It’s fun. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to living like a European aristocrat. I’m sure that once this semester winds down (/when I submit my college applications, marching season ends, I finally finish Boy Scouts, and I audition for All-State), I’ll have a little more time to write for leisure.