When A Thing Is Wrong

Henry David Thoreau writes:

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

Many are the times when I make a promise to myself that I will stop watching the news only to break it soon after. I am terrified to watch terrorists commit atrocities against innocent people and against humanity in different parts of the world.


My heart bleeds when I see children killed while playing innocently, or teenagers being taken away at gunpoint from their families. As someone who has had the experience of being held at gunpoint by militias I can imagine what these innocent people feel and think the moment they fall into the hands of those ruthless rebels.

There’s a passage stuck in my head from Hemingway’s book For Whom The Bell Tolls, that reads:

“That’s my town,” Joaquin said. “What a fine town but how the Buena gente, the good people of that town, have suffered in this war.” Then his face grave, “There they shot my father. My mother. My brother-in-law and now my sister.”
“What barbarians,” Robert Jordan said.
How many times had he heard this? How many times had he watched people say it with difficulty? How many times had he seen their eyes fill and their throats harden with the difficulty of saying my father, or my brother, or my mother, or my sister? He could not remember how many times he had heard them mention their dead in this way. Nearly always they spoke as this boy did now; suddenly and apropos of the mention of the town and always you said, “What barbarians.”
“You only heard the statement of the loss. You did not see the father fall as Pilar made him see the fascists die in that story she had told by the stream. You knew the father died in some courtyard, or against some wall, or in some field or orchard, or at night, in the lights of a truck, beside some road. You had seen the lights of the car from the hills and heard the shooting and afterwards you had come down to the road and found the bodies. You did not see the mother shot, nor the sister, nor the brother. You heard about it; you heard the shots; and you saw the bodies.”

Doesn’t this paragraph pretty much describe what is happening now to innocent civilians in some parts of the world? Isn’t this what we see and hear on TV, radio and internet constantly? Hemingway copyrighted his book in 1940. Three quarters of a century has passed since then during which we have advanced in so many ways, in science, technology, medicine, etc.

Why does it feel then like we haven’t changed much?

“When a thing is wrong something’s bound to happen.” Ernest Hemingway


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