When asked if he felt as if people forgot about the Occupy movement after the cameras left, famous rapper, Lupe Fiasco, remarked that part of what cameras do is highlight something and, in the process, bring it to the forefront of our minds but when they leave so does our recollection of that event. Last week I wrote about the shooting in Isla Vista and the tragedy that was. But upon further reflection I recognize this same forgetting principle to be at work in my life, not just about this event but most things.
Last Fourth of July I was devastated to hear about a five-year old boy who was hit by a bullet in what appeared to be a gang-related shooting in Chicago. He was rushed to the hospital where there was no guarantee he would make it. I silently vowed to follow the story to the end. Unfortunately, this paragraph is the first time I’ve remembered since it happened.
The beauty of the news is it brings the tragedies of the world to our attention. The scandal, however, lies in how quickly we forget. Unless we’re personally affected, things are back to normal the next day. But even after the cameras disappear and the pain is no longer in the spotlight, the afflicted community will continue to wrestle with the disaster. The hurt and shock of Isla Vista will exist even after we’ve forgotten (as it has in Newtown, Aurora, Boston, Malaysia, and Nigeria). This past week I’ve been reminded of this luxury I have, which those in the situation don’t: I get the option to forget.
But then of course some would disagree and rightly so. First, I don’t know if it’s possible for us to constantly carry the woes of the entire world and still function like normal human beings. Perhaps it’s God’s grace towards us that, to some small extent, we get the option of what we remember (granted there are things we wish we could forget). Second, things must get back to normal. As much as we want to stop, life continues and we must learn to live with it. But lastly, the real scandal is that there are some tragedies we don’t get to forget because they never made it on our radar in first place.
This past month and a half the Bible Study that meets in my house went through David Platt’s Radical, in which he tells us that 30,000 children around the world die every day in obscurity from starvation and preventable diseases. Roughly one billion people survive on less than a dollar a day while another two billion live on less than two. We get the luxury to operate as if they don’t exist. But just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.
In a society bound to forget, the first step of standing in solidarity with “the suffering” is to remember even after the world has forgotten, to develop what Gary Haugen in The Good News About Injustice calls object permanence towards evil.
While I don’t necessarily know what this looks like in situations such as Isla Vista, one of the best ways to remember is to invest in it. If the issue as to why we can’t remember lies in its distance from us (emotional or geographical), investing (time or money) brings it closer to home. Suddenly the afflicted have a name, a face, and a story. And when they have a name, a face, and a story we are more inclined to act on their behalf. As followers of Jesus, I don’t believe this is optional.
This week my wife and I are taking time to pray, asking God how he’s calling us to remember those we’re inclined to forget. Will you join us?