It’s a small, somewhat grainy picture on page nine of yesterday’s newspaper. The only person in the picture is a woman, someone author Andrew McCall Smith would describe as “traditionally built.” She wears a long red skirt and a purple tee shirt and her grey hair is pulled back into a bun. The two bulging sacks she carries could very well hold onions, carrots, cabbage and whatever else she found for tonight’s soup.
Why all this descriptive verbiage? Because I need to make her real, not just a woman living 6000 miles away in the Ukraine. (That’s how far Donetsk is from Colorado Springs.) Shall we make her even more real by giving her a name so she assumes not just personage but personality, more akin to my condo neighbors or friends from church or family in California and New York? Olga walks home from the market with her supper supplies. A task many of us handle several times a week.
But…and it’s a huge differentiating but…off to the woman’s left is a large white building, perhaps a government office building or a school. Near its eaves is a jagged hole quite obviously the result of weaponry. Olga doesn’t even glance at the building as she passes. Has such devastation become commonplace to her? She just plods homeward to make the soup. Life goes on.
There’s a problem with seeing pictures of women in red skirts and purple tops in the Sunday paper. I see similar pictures several times each week. Photojournalists in Mali, Syria, Iraq send them in droves to their editors who then decide which will have most “reader appeal.”
I quickly turn the page to read about Saturday night’s Rockies game or this afternoon’s predicted thunderstorms. I need not stop to think about the Olgas of the world who live in cities with bombed buildings. If I think about them, I might also forced to think about the horrors of war in the Ukraine or the still missing teenaged girls in Nigeria. Or the smudged faces of Honduran children crossing a border. Or bodies in a field in Afghanistan or Gaza. I need to turn the page.
After all, life goes on.