Mei Mei Chu, on a particularly difficult week at the news desk.
I buried a dead bird today.
She must have fallen from the sky. She was on the pavement floor, eyes closed, wings clasped by her side. She looked so peaceful, as if she were sleeping.
Human feet walked past her, some did not miss her presence, some did a double take but continued on their busy way to lunch, or work, or their illegally parked cars.
As my colleagues and I carried her small body to a nearby park, I couldn’t help but recall all the stories about the MH17 victims that I have read and wrote about. There was one Dutch father who thanked Putin for shooting his only daughter out of the sky. She was only 17 years old and she was going to be an engineer. You could feel the pain and loss in his heart-wrenching open letter to the Russian president. I still remember his name; it was Hans de Borst.
With one plane crash after another, one bombing after another, it has been a particularly sad week for the world. For the people who work in news, it has been an emotionally draining week.
Having to hunt, read, and write every single detail of all the tragedies for 8 hours a day at my work desk, I felt so consumed by sadness. Every day, hundreds of people are dying in vain. Worse, hundreds of people are killing each other. Raped, abused, criminalised, kidnapped. It’s hard not to feel anger, grief and exasperation at humanity when your job is to monitor how much bad news is going on around the world.
Bad news used to come in small doses — community crime, local political squabbles, an accident, a tragedy somewhere. But now, Hurricane Depressing News is flooding our newsfeeds with no sign of it receding anytime soon. The gravity of news is becoming so overwhelming too. We have escalated from ‘crime scene’ to ‘world’s largest crime scene’.
We are barely shocked by news of children killed or people shot or immigrants abused anymore because so many other children are killed everyday, shootings happen so often, immigrants around the world are being denied human rights. All this fucked up shit surrounds us so consistently, repeatedly, that we have been so desensitised by it. Some of us have even stopped caring; many have even given up on reading the news.
It is sad that we have become so accustomed to depressing news that we celebrate stories of kindness like it’s a rare gem. We feel the need to remind our friends and ourselves — “OMG, READ THIS STORY! GOODNESS STILL EXISTS IN THIS WORLD! FAITH IN HUMANITY RESTORED!”. Celebrate the goodness in people by all means but it should not be a rare gem! Is kindness really that hard to come by? Is this what humanity has become?
It feels as if the entire world’s problems were amplified in this one week. I felt the Dutch father’s anger at Russia, I felt the Syrians’ panic as they frantically dug a baby girl out from under rubble, I grieved for the brothers and sisters on MH17 who are not mine. I felt helpless reading the details of their stories. I fear one day I would too stop caring or feeling.
“Do you need a Priest? I used to be one, a long time ago,” a kind gray-haired uncle asked as he pointed to where we could dig a small grave for the fallen bird. She was another lost soul amongst the 680 victims that had perished this week in four airplane crashes.
We dug a shallow grave under the tree and carefully placed her in it. A branch and a mound on the ground now mark her final resting place. This was one soul that I could help.
As we head back to the office, the uncle made a cross sign and prayed that the little bird would have eternal rest. That prayer was meant for her, but oddly enough it gave me the strength for another day at the news desk.
Good night bird, sleep well.