the rape of nanking

“Do you ever read the obituaries?”
“I do. I read them every morning in The New York Times.”
“They’re interesting. I enjoy reading about people’s lives, especially three-dimensional people.”
“Are you used to people who aren’t three-dimensional?”
“YEAH! I think most people are one-dimensional. It’s refreshing to see all the three-dimensional people in one place sometimes.”
“In one place where they’re all dead.”

We had that conversation weeks ago.

A few days ago the obituaries came up again and he told me about the recent death of the last surviving Hiroshima bomb crew member: Theodore Van Kirk.

“They interviewed him when he was alive and he mentioned something about ‘The Rape of Nanking.’ I had never heard of it before so I looked it up and read about it. Have you heard of it? It’s a horrible story. I don’t even know why I’m bringing it up.”

“It’s new to me…and it sounds like a horrible story. It’s early, but I’m ready for it.”

He proceeded to tell me about it and it was horrendous. No more or less shocking than current day affairs. A life lost and a person abused holds the same value for me no matter when or where it happened…or which life or what person for that matter. It all saddens and pains me. But that morning the purpose was to not bring sadness but to bring appreciation and perspective. The last time I saw him he was a wreck with all the divorce troubles and this morning he was accepting.

“So what? My only problem is that I have to drive one of my kids 45 minutes to go to school? So what? My only problem is an ex-housewife? That’s great! That’s not bad at all!”

“You’re right. It’s not.”

With this new point of reference, something happened: a once large problem became small. The comparison had a lasting, positive effect on him, and it was because it was a comparison he chose to make himself. I feel we often use the “you’re problem isn’t so bad, just think about how much worse it could be” technique a lot on other people when they’re sharing their tales of sorrow and we pass on an opportunity to practice empathy.

Empathy is one of the most effective ways to quiet someone’s pain and in combination with some other premium humane goodies, it’s one of the ways to make this world a better place. All we really have control of on this planet is the impact we make as an individual and what’s more accessible and life changing than how we choose to communicate? Most human successes and problems boil down to communication, wouldn’t you say? Oh? ALL OF THEM? I’ll take that, too.

I went home and read up on The Rape of Nanking myself. I cried almost the whole time. I thought about rape in the Congo, rape in general…dammit, just THE WORLD IN GENERAL, and what a horrible, scary, and unfair world it can be. I texted him that I was following up on our morning conversation, now crying, and he reminded me that “mankind creates both beauty and absolute horror.”

I choose to concentrate on the beauty. I choose to create the beauty. I choose to communicate with others openly and freely and to help the world by not being intimated by the world but by concentrating on what the world is made up of: individuals.

One impact and one person at a time, folks. Sugar babies as social workers. Sugar daddies as spotlights on social injustices.


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