If you want to hide something that is morally evil, give it a good name. Collateral damage means innocent bystanders who were killed in a military or terrorist attack; expendable refers to lives that may be sacrificed as inevitably necessary to achieve an objective. They are euphemisms for the belief that human beings are disposable.
Such labels let us avert our eyes from the intolerable, perhaps to avoid being overwhelmed by the immensity of a situation that seems beyond solution; or, as a way of sloughing off an evil occurrence as “not my concern” — someone else’s problem. The media talks about the “invisible poor.” Poor people are not invisible. We just avoid looking at them. It is unpleasant to look at the beggar standing at the stoplight, so we look away.
Most of us live in a sanitized culture. We seek to make life less offensive by eliminating anything objectionable, unwholesome, soiled, odoriferous and disagreeable, including, of course, people who fall in these categories.
Pope Francis speaks of this phenomenon as “global indifference,” explaining that, “… without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though they were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.” (Evangelii Gaudium 54). It’s nothing new. The first recorded instance is found in the Book of Genesis, “Then the LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9)
It is overwhelming. Multiply the beggar on the corner, the migrant refugees at the border, the homeless sleeping beneath the bridge by the millions. Then include Syrian refugees by the hundreds of thousands in Turkey, the desperate people clinging to boats that are more flotsam and jetsam than vessels, crossing the Mediterranean seeking refuge and a new life in Europe.
Do not overlook those invisible poor who live around the corner or on the other side of town; those who go to bed hungry every night; those who are abused physically, sexually and emotionally; those who are alone and helpless whose lives are lived in fear.
I pray that you will be moved to help those desperate ones, whether they are Catholic or not, because we are all precious children of God. Give them hope. You may donate online to Catholic Charities Dallas and Catholic Relief Services. Through these agencies you can not only see the poorest among us but you can reach out your hand in loving assistance in Christ’s name.
Image credit: Janis K. on Flickr