Sunday, April 21, 2013

Proper Remembering

I know lots of people do their best to NOT see or listen to commercials. OK. They're entitled. But I can't help thinking a person can learn quite a bit from these broadcast snippets if you watch them carefully enough.
Have you, for instance, seen the commercial for the Buick Encore (another car name, BTW, for some reason tied to music, like the Sonata or the Prelude)? It starts with huge dinosaurs moving about in their clunky fashion on modern streets. The biggest dino has a small car at its feet nimbly avoiding being crushed, with its passengers totally unfazed. That's the Encore. Are the GM folks perhaps taking a chance competing with those loveable hamsters who sell the KIA Soul? Maybe. The real question to me isn't whether any big lizards were harmed in the making of the commercial, but whether we could get used to the weird idea of a small Buick. Anyway, the commercial is fun, so that's a start.

Poor little Martin Richard. He was unknown just a week ago, and now we are remembering him, the youngest fatality of the Boston Marathon bombing. He was just eight years old, cute, and part of a genuine family fully involved in their local community of  Dorchester. His sister Jane, just six, will have to spend the rest of her life explaining how she lost her leg, and their mother will have to recover from head wounds. This bombing may not amount to much in the history of terror attacks when compared with what happens every week somewhere in the world, but it already has its human symbol, little Martin. 
There will, sadly, be other bombings and shootings no matter what police or military forces are deployed for our protection. We don't know the motive, which will no doubt change in coming years as well, but Martin is gone, and we cannot bring him back. He wasn't a hero, or demonstrably smarter or more attractive than other lost children killed just this last week in both natural and man-made violence in Iraq or China or Texas. He didn't really die for a cause or shouting defiance to a cruel world. He was really just - unlucky, at the wrong place and time.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't remember him, because we should. Richmond, VA has a whole avenue of Confederate heroes remembered in huge statues, poised on horseback to defend the Cause, lost almost 150 years ago. That kind of thing wouldn't be appropriate for Martin. Perhaps his classmates could assemble something that could later be redone in permanent materials and displayed at his school. The cost needn't be enormous to help people remember the little guy.
I like the monument in Oklahoma City which remembers the past terror attack there with a simple collection of empty chairs matching the number of federal employees (and some children at a daycare center) lost to a fertilizer bomb. The chairs number around 150. Could Newtown, CT use something like shoes to mark their lost children and teachers? I'd be surprised if something wasn't assembled there. An arrangement of movie theater seats in Aurora, CO or textbooks at Columbine High School?  Would a sculpture of someone in pain just be too hard to live with? I don't know.
But I think it need not be a bad thing to remind people of the idea of human suffering, particularly when it is not a part of most lives, most of the time. Perhaps being reminded can help us better put things in perspective. Shakespeare had Romeo chide his kinsman a little by saying "He jests at scars who never felt a wound". If we can remember and still avoid the spirit of vengeance and retribution only too common in society, then that would be a good thing, wouldn't it?    



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