A Great Responsibility...

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The ground rushed up to meet us, and the jolting, grinding noise of the landing gear popping out startled me, as it always did. When the plane landed, and the great motors finally stopped, making my ears miss the noise, we exited the plane along with all the other people. The sight of people and animals everywhere met my eyes as soon as we were out of the airport; it was very, very familiar. The stench of the city’s numerous sewers that would later earn it the name “The Indonesia Smell” rushed to my nostrils, making me cringe. Indonesia was way, way hotter than America; the humidity was already making my hair curl from just stepping out of the cool building and into the tropical atmosphere. People milled about, jabbering in a language which I could no longer remember, one which was pushed way back into the depths of my mind. Cars were crammed into four lanes on a two lane streets, with motorcycles weaving in and out, disregarding any traffic laws and doing whatever they could to get to their destination.
My parents were here to help with the tsunami relief. Their aims were to rebuild a culture nearly lost to the devastating waves; I was just along for the ride, to be able to say that I’d lived in another country, not once, but twice. After nine months of living in a small fishing village called Sigli, my dad had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) from everything he had seen and experienced. All the empty shoes lying on the beaches with no one to fill their empty soles, people confined to a far away village because of their leprosy, all the tent villages with barely enough room, food, and water to accommodate the people who had been forced away from their homes by the tsunami, far too many things like that had pushed him over the edge, but it didn’t seem fair to me that we had to leave Indonesia so soon, before my parents had actually finished their work. Then again, it wasn’t fair of me to have just sat at home and let my parents do all the work, and not care about what happened in the world around me, but it wouldn’t be until we were actually home that I realized just how unfair life really was.
My parent’s bosses thought because my dad’s experience had been so traumatic and he needed psychological help, that we all needed to see a bunch of psychiatrists. Supposedly the psychiatrists were the best in South Carolina, so to South Carolina we were banished. We were walking in a super-market there, called Piggly-Wiggly. That name had made me laugh, at first. I marveled at everything, the food, the toys, the luxuries that I had missed while living in Indonesia. For some reason, it made my daddy cry. Even then, it took me a while to realize why he was so wracked with emotion. But then I understood, like that always metaphorical frying pan had smacked my brain into the real world. Those people hadn‘t had anything, yet here we were, the most powerful, blessed nation in the world, just sitting on our wealth.
On the shelves of that hateful super market, there were salad dressings that were worth more than some Indonesians made in an entire month, the bottles glaring tauntingly in the halogen lights of the supermarket, the flamboyant labels making me sick. Salad dressing, something so cheap, so unnecessary, but with what price did such a cheap thing come? With great power comes great responsibility, right? But what if we ignore that great responsibility, and abuse our power? I fought tears of my own now. My country wasn’t as amazing it bragged about being.
America carried on about being such an amazing place, but didn’t bother to care if people in other countries died from the lack of life’s basic needs. How does that make us great? How could I be proud of that? I was an American that felt Indonesian, I still am. While one part of my heart starves, lacking the simplest necessities, the other takes more and more for itself, not caring, not bothering to look back, and remember the places it left to die. To die. To die, that’s a pretty cruel thing to do, just to leave it to die. To die, it was a harsh judgment for a harsh world, in which nothing is ever fair. Fair. Life wasn’t fair, life isn’t fair. It. Isn‘t. Fair. The words echoed in my mind, a sudden melancholic epiphany, a reverberating bass drum, over and over again, pounding the three words permanently into my cerebral cortex.
I’d heard this saying many times before in my life as an answer when I’d complained to my parents about not getting my way, or not having something that I wanted, like the greedy American I‘d learned to be. But I’d never really, subconsciously believed it to be true. Life would always be handed to me on that ever clichéd silver platter, along with money, power and fame, right? Now this rule of life, this one ever-lasting truth sunk in, pushing deeper and deeper into my mind, cementing itself into the depths of my heart, if such a greedy, self indulgent thing can be called that. I didn’t know what to do anymore, should I cry? Should I hate everything? Should I run from my thoughts and feelings forever? But I didn’t cry, or hate everything, I accepted it. There was nothing else that I could do but acknowledge that such a simple saying was the truth. This was just how life was, not fair.
Now that I understood life’s true identity, I would forever pay more attention to the rest of the world, instead of just focusing on the wants and needs of my own selfish heart. Now when I see something happening in another country, such as the earthquake in Haiti, or the genocide in Sudan, my heart goes out to those in need because all third-world, war torn, disaster struck countries are the same, and need help. My heart aches from watching all the mournful reports on television, and because all hurting nations are the same, and I love Indonesia, I love them now as well. Things like that take me all the way back to a super market in South Carolina, where I truly discovered that life wasn’t fair.





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chocolaterevolver said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm
I really liked the message in this paper. It really made me think of how I look at America. I also really liked how you stay true to your thoughts thoughout the entire paper. You may want to look over it again though, because I think I may have seen a few minor errors in it. For example, "The stench of the sewer that would later earn it the name "The Indonesia Smell" rushed to my nostrils" is missing commas and should be "The stench of the sewer, that would later earn it the name "The ... (more »)
 
qwerty42 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm
I was using the word 'that' instead of the word 'which'. My professor said that I didn't need a comma after the phrase "The Indonesia Smell" b/c i did have one there, but he told me to edit it out. so who knows
 
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