I traveled to Seymour, Tenn. last weekend to visit some old relatives. Some were still alive. Some had left the building we call earth years ago and laid at rest in Woodlawn Cemetery near Knoxville. Headstones marked the spots where four people who would never know the answers to so many “important” questions lay.
The aunt and uncle I was visiting looked like they had their boarding passes to the same cemetery and were ready to move on as soon as peace was achieved in the Middle East. I suppose they and their artificial joints, will be here until the “second coming.”
As we sat in front of the television, a news channel was on and I thought about all the absurd news issues and questions we are exposed to daily through the idiot box. When does life begin? Are gays born that way? Should women have the right to choose and when will the “war” on them end? Whose going to win the Superbowl? I can’t remember last year’s winner. Ss the world getting warmer? And the always important, why do we allow poor people the luxury of spending money on cigarettes and beer? It was as if there were nothing more important than these burning questions and issues available for consumption. Questions that -- if answered unsympathetically -- would no doubt cause someone to lose a vote or two.
A spokesperson came on to sell a Hurrycane (why be in a hurry if you have to use a cane?) and we stopped watching. When we tuned in again a bulletin was saying something about people taking credit cards off the bodies of those who died over Ukraine; something about finding three infants on the ground in a field of sunflowers; something about a father’s only child, a 17-year-old who was an engineering student who will never see a day of college.
The news that day was about 298 souls who would never ask another question, never see a sunrise or sunset, never love, never lose or win, never wonder, never discover a cure, help an invalid, or rescue an animal. There were 298 people who died without knowing why in a sudden explosion thousands of feet above the earth.
On a trip to Tucson, Ariz., years ago we went into Nogales, Mexico, where my daughter asked if we could adopt a baby girl who was sitting in a gutter eating Chinese food out of an old box. The mother was sitting next to her, nursing her sibling. My wife and I looked at our daughter and said, “we can’t.” When she asked why, I couldn’t think of a reason so we just walked on. I wish I had had an answer for her, an answer that would make sense, not only of why the little girl was there in the first place but why we couldn’t help her.
There are questions in this life that really don’t deserve a whole lot of thought or energy, such as a few of the ones listed earlier. Then there are the important questions that must be answered, questions that, if not answered, may result in our losing a bit of our humanity.
The question of why that airplane blew up at 33,000 feet must be answered. All Americans know that we are the ones to do it. It’s what makes us who we are in spite of our obsession with the trivia we find ourselves listening to each day. To do less would dishonor those whose lives were lost, and will never know why.
Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.