Wednesday Vignette – on compassion

Well, I had vastly different plans for this week’s Vignette. I even refrained from posting the photo I was so excited about on Instagram. Now I have to hold off for another week, because…. well, guess what? The unthinkable happened, right in our backyard. Our ancient, sacred, and breathtakingly beautiful Columbia Gorge is on fire. The culprits were a gaggle of giggling teenagers, shooting fire works off a cliff, into the tinder box that is the late Oregon summer, way down below.


Not much of a photo, but it appeared just like this on my phone,  just in time for this tragedy. Must have been some kind of accidental pocket shot, but as Fate would have it, it perfectly illustrates both the heat, the fire, and my currently nearly blind rage with those who caused this. I know. I should be more levelheaded, but right now, I’m on fire too. And not in a good way…

Many better folks than I are calling for compassion for the perpetrators, but I’m sorry. I don’t have it in me, any more than I have compassion for the Taliban, who with self righteous bravado erased the cultural heritage of an entire nation. I have a big enough heart, but it has no room for stupid, arrogant, indifferent or intolerant people – regardless of age. If I were the parent of these young adults, I would feel like a massive, f***ing failure, and probably throw myself off the cliff too, in all-consuming shame. For the record – the Taliban are still on my shit list, and I don’t think this particular ire will disappear anytime soon either.

So, whaddya guys think? Do they deserve our compassion? A friend succinctly remarked that had the teenagers been any other color than white, they would have been instantly lambasted, as well as tarred and feathered. Compassion would have been the last thing on anyone’s mind. I think she is right. She probably would be right in most states, but especially so in Oregon, which – as most of you probably know – was created as a “utopia for whites”, and had a black exclusion law written into its constitution. There has been extensive vetting of thoughts, feelings and emotions on whether this warrants compassion – or not – on social media. I may be wrong, but I STILL cannot bring myself to regard the situation with that noblest of feelings – whatever the color of the perpetrators. I’m so ragingly upset…(we can all be thankful I don’t have any judicial powers.)

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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22 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – on compassion

  1. bergstromskan says:

    Yes Anna, you are on fire, and rightly so. The unthinkable happened-again. This time so unnecessary, so unbelievable, so stupid, so sad….Still not in in any human plan-at least, I think not…
    The loss of a Sanctuary, Beauty, material, money-everything including hope, it seems like.
    And I hear you saying “What would have happened if the boys had been of any other color, ethnicity, nationality?” When will we ever learn? The hopelessness and despair.
    This disaster, I think, also blow a hole in your container of dreams about a better world. Something you always have worked hard for. I am hearing you, holding you in my heart, loving you with the love of a mother. Rest there for as long as you want.

  2. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of so much. Over time, the gorge will recover; may your heart also heal.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Peter – it’s not like we’re the only ones experiencing loss. I’m primarily thinking of the folks of Houston and now those hunkering down in the Caribbean. But those disasters were not directly caused by humans, whereas most forest fires nowadays, are. I’m really agonizing over the callous, shortsighted stupidity of our specie. We really don’t deserve the comforts we are reaping from this earth – we’re such barbarians… That book by Shel Silverstein comes to mind… you know “The Giving Tree”. Sigh…

  3. Tracy says:

    Bottom line: actions have consequences. Some people have to learn the hard way.

    • annamadeit says:

      They do. Or rather, they SHOULD have consequenses. Some might argue that living with what they’ve done is punishment enough. I might be in the minority, but I can’t help lusting for more.

  4. Tina says:

    Oh, the gorge, so stunningly beautiful. I’d read that it was on fire, but didn’t know the cause. Anger is certainly a good response and all of your points are valid. Stupidity rules, I’m afraid, but judgement on this level is no excuse. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, sanction(s) will be meted.

  5. Kris P says:

    I cringe every time fireworks go off in our tinder-dry area too, which is almost continuously for a month before and at least a month after the 4th of July. However, it’s the parents in this instance that usually earn my wrath – teenage brains aren’t fully developed but parents should educate them on risks like that and they certainly shouldn’t buy them fireworks! (Firework purchases are illegal in my city and most of the areas immediately surrounding us in LA but in other areas of California they can be purchased, albeit only by adults.) I’m very sorry for the damage to your beautiful gorge and I hope appropriate actions will be taken – jailing whomever bought the fireworks would be a good starting point.

    Here’s my WV:

    • annamadeit says:

      I’ve thought a lot about that in the past few days; when is the human brain really fully developed? Science says around age 25, or so. This may be so, and if this is the actual truth, it brings up a slew of other questions: Why are kids allowed to drive what is essentially a 4500 lbs weapon of mass destruction at the tender age of 16? (Actually, 15, if you count the student permit.) Why are humans allowed to both vote, go to jail, and join the armed forces at 18 if their brains aren’t fully formed yet? Realizing that these age/expected maturity limits are rather arbitrary, and likely stem from a time when a lot more was expected from people of that age (earlier marriage, earlier breeding, earlier joining the work force, etc.), I wonder if it isn’t time for us as a society to adjust those crucial milestones to more closely reflect the scientific age for a completely functional brain. Like most parents, I would abhor to have to cart my kids around for another 10 years. But on the other end of that thought lingers the fact that driving is all about exercising proper judgement, and weighing risks vs benefits. Kids of today are A LOT more coddled and hovered over than kids of the, say, early 1900’s were. Based on what I observe around me as a parent of teenagers, many kids of that age are given very little responsibility and have a delayed (or even suppressed) sense of what exploring the world truly means. (For example, my kids have classmates that aren’t allowed to use public transit alone.) Instead of trusting in our ability to teach, we contemporary parents have chosen to protect. This is a huge setback to public safety – especially if we are going to expect them to adhere to norms that are not at all in line with our current practices. If we are going to treat our kids as blameless babies into their teens, when they are legally able to do all kinds of things requiring mature minds, maybe we need to step back and look at our laws and regulations. Either step up and do our jobs as parents, or change the laws to protect ourselves from our children. So yes, I said it in the post, and I’ll say it again. If I was the parent of these kids, I would feel like a giant fucking failure. Even if part of the blame can be put on contemporary parenting practices.

  6. Amy Campion says:

    I am brokenhearted by these fires, but I am also saddened by my fellow liberals making these kids out to be total sociopaths when they really don’t know anything about them other than one witness’s account. Do you really want to compare these teenagers to the Taliban? To people that are abducted as children and brainwashed to kill people? Do you really have so little faith in humanity that you think these kids feel no remorse for what they’ve done? I would imagine that any punishment they receive will pale in comparison to the guilt that will torture them the rest of their lives.

    I also think that most of us can probably admit to having done some things in our youth that were very stupid that could have ended up very, very badly. Maybe not burn-down-the-Gorge badly, but… how many people have driven way too fast, or driven when they’ve had too much to drink, or succumbed to peer pressure to take some kind of foolish risk… but nothing bad happened because they were lucky?

    • annamadeit says:

      Well, there WAS a witness. I know it wasn’t me, but that’s all we have to go on, other than the testimonies of the kids themselves. I will leave that tangle up to the courts. As for my reference to the Talibans – that was just an example. I could just as well have said China and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, or some other instance of historic fervor that aimed to destroy. Both used children, and easily manipulable minds to further their cause, but neither was started by children. I have no way of knowing what was in this kids mind, but as a reasonably sentient human, I have to wonder why in the world he wanted to shoot off fireworks during the day. Seems truly pointless to me.

      It is true that we all make mistakes. I have made some truly terrible ones, but always gotten away with it, because I have been lucky, or have not been discovered. I can think of several instances where I could have killed either myself or others. Why I did what I did when I did it still mystifies me, and I still marvel at the fact that I’m still here. Youthful sense of infallibility and immortality, perhaps. Please see my response to Kris’s comment for more on that.

      As for my faith in humanity – yes, it’s truly very low. It’s on par with our court system, only reversed – people have to earn my respect and adoration, whereas initially, I will likely write them off as part of our collective humanity – which I despise. However, I have come to love many individual humans. It’s a strained dichotomy, I know, but it’s all I’ve got. I struggle with it all the time, vacillating from desperation to admiration.

  7. Alison says:

    I’m with you, I’m proud to say. But also, honestly, just the Taliban? Just stupid careless teenagers? I’m pissed off at the whole human race for being idiots. We’re ALL willingly burning our planet down and making it uninhabitable. My WV post is here:

    • annamadeit says:

      Alison – I’m with you on that one. I have very little hope for our specie. We are all guilty of inflicting death by a thousand cuts on the one thing we desperately need to nurture and preserve. I am deeply grateful to all who chose to NOT have children, and even tell my own kids to either opt for a pet, or help ease the collective burden on the world’s resources by adopting. Making a baby takes no brains at all, but raising a self-sustaining, decent human that will be able to contribute positively to bettering the world for all of us, is an enormous task. I have daily bouts of doubt that I’m doing an even half way decent job of it. Time will tell, I guess. Right now, we’re about 8-9 years away, before our oldest’s brain is fully developed. I love them both dearly, but I have said for years, that I will reserve my judgement on whether we were successful or not, to where/how they are when they hit that quarter-century mark. I like to think we’re doing alright, but… we still have almost a decade to go.

  8. I’ve been reading just the opposite view and seen very little call for compassion towards those kids. At times it’s sounded very much like a lynch mob was hunting them down. I’ve also tried to avoid the hyped up “reporting” about them giggling as they started the fire. Says who? Yes that very well could have happened. It also could be misconstrued.

    I’ve also reflected many times on the point that Amy makes. Who among us is so perfect in word and deed that they haven’t done something incredibly stupid that could have ended very badly but somehow got lucky? I know I have. And I’ve been very very lucky.

    That said their actions were incredibly stupid and dangerous. Maybe even malicious. They and their parents should be held accountable, financially and with work to restore what they’ve destroyed. The guilt I hope they feel is only the beginning of what they must do in an attempt to make amends. Our pathetic fascination with fireworks should be addressed. Not that a ban would have necessarily prevented this tragedy, where there is a will to play with fire there is a way.

    I’m feeling no compassion for the teens, just sadness for an incredibly beautiful part of the PNW that is burning, and the people and creatures in the fires path.

    My WV is just garden babble, it’s how I try to retain some sense of normalcy:

    • annamadeit says:

      I agree with everything you say, Loree, and I have written it in one form or other in many replies before this one, primarily to Kris, Amy and Alison. I guess I am part of the lynch mob, and I can’t possibly wrap my head around why on earth anyone would shoot off fireworks in the middle of the afternoon. In a traditional kind of “enjoyment of fireworks” – kind of way, that simply makes no sense to me. I’m absolutely heartbroken about all this, and I want both kids and parents to work this one off, doing public service in one form or other – for many years to come. Even if they do, their efforts will never suffice in restoring the collective loss they caused.

      When I first learned I was pregnant, I cried – not with happiness but with fear. I felt the responsibility that awaited us was absolutely awe inspiring, and incredibly daunting. Yes, the kids that did this should feel every bit of awful, but I absolutely want the parents to feel it too.

  9. hb says:

    The larger problem is the stupidity in search of profits, which we have more and more of…the Kochs and their oil refineries and their anti-EV campaign. Here in tinder dry Southern California those who sell fireworks collude with non-profits to persuade city councils to legalize fireworks under the cover of supporting boy scout troops and little league teams. There’s all sorts of stupidity in the world. You have to pick your battles. The Gorge will eventually recover from this fire, but will the earth recover from our species?

    • annamadeit says:

      I absolutely agree, Hoov… Why on dogs earth would organizations like that support sales of fireworks in a drought afflicted area – or anywhere for that matter? Have the kids wash cars, mow lawns or something… that would be far safer… You are right in that stupidity is all-encompassing. It is so desperately disheartening…

  10. Evan says:

    Amy does make a good point. I wouldn’t put these kids on the same level as the Taliban. And I can’t say that I’ve never done something stupid, either. I paid for it and removed the individual who drew me into that behavior from my life.

    Unfortunately, I do have so little faith in humanity that I don’t believe these “kids” feel much remorse, if any, for their actions. It was too callous, too deliberate, for me to believe they have any concept of consequences or remorse. I can’t imagine being so detached from reality and consequences as to do something so idiotic. I’ve never had patience for idiots and I don’t now.

    • annamadeit says:

      I’m with you on that one, Evan. I don’t humor fools either, and my faith in humanity has been at an all-time low for a long time. No, I’m no better than anyone else. I’ve done plenty of stupid things, and often gotten away with it without any life altering consequences. The one thing that eats at me is this: WHY oh, why would anyone shoot off fireworks in broad daylight? It doesn’t make sense. If you want to hear a bang (which really is pretty much all you would get in daylight conditions), it would be better to just do some target practice. The Taliban parallell was just to illustrate senseless destruction – it could as well have been some other movement involving fervor and forced display of narrow-minded ideology.

      • Evan says:

        From what I read from the eye-witness account, it was either a smoke bomb or a firecracker (the witness changed her story, or the reporter misquoted her). The former would be more “fun” during the day. The latter produces the same effect day or night.

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