About 12 years ago, my friend Girl Detective and I went to see a Chinese film at the Ritz Cinema in Philadelphia. I can't remember what it was now, perhaps 'Raise the red lantern'? We came out profoundly depressed, and agreed with each other on the way home that we didn't need to be that depressed by Art. We could go through the rest of our lives as good, caring, responsible citizens while avoiding other similar works of Art that were likely to upset us. I've mostly stuck by this decision.
Except with the news. H is very keen on watching the news, and so we often have it on in the evening while I'm catching up with work on the sofa. Mostly I'm fine with it on, but occasionally a story gets me angry or upset. Angry about the situation in Zimbabwe, for example, or desperately upset about the incipient famine in East Africa. I wear my emotions very close to the surface, I always have, and I find it hard to switch off when something touches me.
But worse than what I see on Channel 4 every evening, are the three stories I've read recently on the internet. I'm not going to link to them now because I don't want to inflict the pain on all of you, and I know the temptation to click is hard to resist. All three are stories of terrible things happening to children. In the first two examples, because their parents, otherwise entirely caring and loving, didn't realise the child was in their care rather than the other parent's. In the third case an extraordinary neglect case. The first two happened in Italy, the last in the USA.
The point here is not what happened to those children, although it's appalling and horrible, but what I choose to do to myself. I know that I am going to carry the awful knowledge, the awful pain of those stories around with me for weeks, if not months. The images of what it must have been like for those children rise to the surface, unbidden, at regular but unpredictable intervals. I'm left wondering two things about myself. First, why did I click through when I knew it would upset me? Second, do I have to know about these things? Would it be ok if I just closed my eyes and let those stories pass by me?
It's a tough one for me. I want to know about the holocaust, for example. I think it's important that everyone knows it happened, some of why it happened, what we might do to prevent it happening again. Everyone in the world should know. I think the world should be aware of what's happening in Zimbabwe, be aware of the extraordinary events that are commonplace there - a man's wife being murdered because he dared stand for election, for example. Not to mention the other places in the world where awful things are happening right now.
So where do I draw the line? Is it enough to know that child abuse happens, awful accidents happen to children when their parents aren't paying attention? To know in the theoretical sense and not have to know the details? Or is it important to know the details of the stories, to let them haunt me because in doing so I...what? Decrease the chances of it happening again? What impact can I have on similar stories? I'm not a social worker, or a child care worker, or a charity worker who might fund the right programme.
I don't know. It's messy. I have to know these things exist, I have to have empathy for those children, but do I have to carry those stories with me - to honour the children concerned, at least in memory? Does that help?
6dp3dt - none of the cramps and pullings I've had before when I've been pregnant, except for one sharp one yesterday. Resisted peeing on a stick this morning because I only had two expired ones, one digital and one cross-type, the latter being notoriously hard to read, and the former being unsatisfactory in the peering and twisting activities. Torn between hoping and being pretty sure that one doesn't get that lucky twice in one's life.