Seeing is Believing

by Mark Chmiel

1.

Two years later, when I went to the United States to explain the suffering of the Vietnamese people and to plead for peace in Vietnam, I saw a woman on television carrying a wounded baby covered with blood, and suddenly, I understood how the American people could continue to support the fighting and bombing. The scene of the television was quite different from the reality of having a bleeding baby in my arms. My despair was intense, but the scene on the television looked like a performance. I realized that there was no connection between experiencing the actual event and watching it on the TV screen while sitting at home in peace and safety.  People could watch such horrible scenes on TV and still go about their daily business — eating, dancing, playing with children, having conversations.  After an encounter with such suffering, desperation filled my every cell.  These people were human beings like me; why did they have to suffer so?  Questions like these burned inside me, and, at the same time, inspired me to continue my work with serene determination.  Realizing how fortunate I was compared to those living under the bombs helped dissolve any anger or suffering in me, and I was committed to keep doing my best to help them without fear.

Cao Ngoc Phuong, Vietnamese Buddhist and activist

2.

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury….I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing, and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it—and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed U.S. citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown.

Rachel Corrie, American activist

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